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Impact of Arsenic on Myocardial Ischemic Injury

Recent studies suggest a direct link between ischemic heart disease and exposure to environmental toxicants, including particulate matter, gaseous pollutants, and certain metals. One such toxicant is the naturally occurring metalloid arsenic, which is a constituent of over 200 minerals and has become extensively mobilized as a result of natural and industrial processes (i.e., mining, farming practices). Arsenic is a major contaminant of drinking water in the United States and many other regions of the world, and has been linked to the development of ischemic heart disease.

Our recent study demonstrated that acute arsenic exposure (i.e., four weeks in drinking water) exacerbated ischemic injury in female hearts at the highest dose (Veenema et al., 2019). Although baseline myocardial function was not altered in arsenic exposed females, we did find a significant myocardial hypertrophy, which may contribute to the observed increase in susceptibility to ischemic injury. Current studies are focused on defining the mechanistic pathways that are responsible for enhanced ischemic injury in female hearts following arsenic exposure. Since arsenic is known to act as an endocrine disrupter, estrogen signaling is a major focus in the female heart. We are also examining the impact of long-term arsenic exposure, as well as exposure during early life. 

Overall, this project seeks to assess the impact on environmental toxicants like arsenic on cardioprotective signaling.