The Dutch Heart Foundation has awarded Tyler Kirby with the Senior Scientist Dekker grant. Dekker grants are personal research grants for talented scientists that are awarded annually. With the grants, the Heart Foundation enables researchers to make the next step in their careers. The Dekker grant helps them to set up and expand their own line of research. With the grant of 510,000 euros, Tyler can perform further research into cardiovascular disease.

Early Intervention to Prevent Hereditary Cardiomyopathy

Approximately 1 in 500 adults has a hereditary heart muscle disease known as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, characterized by thickening of a portion of the heart muscle. This thickening, referred to as hypertrophy, reduces the heart chamber's capacity, resulting in less blood being pumped with each heartbeat. For the past thirty years, scientists have identified the genetic mutations responsible for this condition.

Chain Reaction
However, not everyone carrying these genetic mutations develops the disease. The reason why some individuals become affected while others do not remains unknown. Consequently, medical professionals are currently unable to prevent the disease and can only commence treatment once symptoms manifest. Seeking to change this, cellular physiologist Dr. Tyler Kirby aims to investigate the heart's mechanisms that lead to the observed thickening.

"It likely involves a chain reaction," he explains. "The endpoint is the thickening of the heart muscle. My objective is to identify the initial steps of this chain reaction. If I can pinpoint those steps, I can intervene with medication before the heart becomes truly diseased."

Intervening before the Onset of Heart Disease
Kirby's approach takes him back to the nucleus – quite literally. He believes that, in a very early stage, the cell nuclei of heart muscle cells are under high tension and undergo shape changes. Consequently, the DNA within the cell nucleus becomes damaged, triggering further processes that lead to heart muscle thickening. "If I can establish this, the second step would involve using medication to ensure that the cell nuclei remain healthy. This would halt the entire chain reaction. My hope is to develop a treatment for the first time that prevents individuals with a hereditary predisposition from developing this severe heart muscle disease."

About the Dekker grants

The Dekker grants are being awarded for the 37th time this year. They are named after Dr. E. Dekker, former director of the Dutch Heart Foundation. He was the initiator in the Netherlands of civilian assistance in the event of a cardiac arrest. Dekker grants are personalized grants for talented cardiovascular researchers at various stages of their careers.

Scientific research is desperately needed to prevent people from dying or becoming ill from cardiovascular disease. That's why the Heart Foundation attracts top talent with its personalized Dekker grants and helps them build their own line of research. 

For more information about the awarded Dekker Grants 2023, you can visit this page

Source: Dutch Heart Foundation