AHA/Myocarditis Foundation fund UCD researcher
Research into myocarditis, a viral infection that can attack the hearts of otherwise healthy people, is currently being conducted by Brian Avanzino of the University of California, Davis (UCD). His project is jointly funded by the American Heart Association/ Myocarditis Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship Award and was inspired by a family history of heart disease and stroke.
Brian explains, “When I was younger, I remember being scared because my grandparents had heart disease and I didn’t know if they were going to be okay. Today, I can help other families because of this research funding.”
His favorite high school class was biology, so it was an easy choice to major in the biological sciences when he went to college. As he learned more, Brian became interested in biochemistry and molecular biology. His first experience with research came as an undergraduate working in a lab over the summer.
“There, I saw a different perspective of looking at and approaching scientific questions,” he says. “I really liked science and working in the lab so I decided to go to graduate school where I could continue doing research.” His current project seeks understanding of how certain human viruses take over host cells and use host factors to produce viral proteins. The fellowship award supports his research on the regulation of cardiovirulent picornaviral protein synthesis in the lab of Christopher S. Fraser, Ph.D., in UCD’s Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology.
Brian adds, “I became interested in it because one of the main viruses responsible for causing myocarditis, coxsackievirus B3, is very closely related to poliovirus, a model virus that we are also studying in the lab. If these viruses behave in a similar way, we might be able to exploit some of these same features to stop the virus.”
“I know it is important to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke to not only improve the quality of life of the affected individuals -- but also their families.”