Rebecca Sullivan Winner of the Dr. Frederick Winnet Luney Graduate Scholarship


My research involves the characterization of a new cardiac-specific biomarker for the early detection of cardiac disease. Our research is showing that the growth hormone secretagogue receptor (GHSR) and its ligand ghrelin are altered in cardiac dysfunction in humans. Specifically, my work is focused on examining how expression of GHSR and ghrelin, along with its downstream signaling molecules, change in human heart disease and heart failure. My results indicate that the GHSR/ ghrelin system is a more sensitive marker for contractile dysfunction than the currently used ‘gold standard’ heart failure marker (B-type natriuretic peptide). I am now examining changes in GHSR/ghrelin in different types of heart disease, and we are seeing interesting results among heart disease etiologies, giving promise of GHSR/ghrelin being a more universal marker of heart disease. Finally, I am developing and characterizing new in vivo imaging techniques to detect GHSR in a large animal of heart failure. I will be using simultaneous positron emission tomography and magnetic resonance imaging to detect functional and molecular changes in early stages of heart failure using GHSR as a biomarker.