CHICAGO, IL—Christopher Solis, a postdoctoral researcher in the UIC College of Medicine, has received a prestigious grantfrom the National Institutes of Health to fund his research into heart muscle cells and support his transition to an independent researcher.
The grant, called a K99 Pathway to Independence Award, provides $200,000 over two years to fund his postdoctoral research, and then another $750,000 for three years after he secures a faculty position. Solis, who works in the lab of Brenda Russel, professor emerita of physiology and biophysics at UIC, is interested in how muscle cells in the heart respond to tension and more importantly, a reduction in tension. Heart cells are continually contracting and relaxing as they work to squeeze blood to the body. And like skeletal muscle cells, these cells can respond to increases in tension, or exertion, by growing in size. How cells react to a reduction in tension, known as ‘mechanical unloading’ in scientific circles, is the subject of Solis’s research project, which looks at structural changes in heart cells in the lab that have been dosed with a drug that reduces the strength of their contractions.