A collaboration between researchers at FIU’s Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine (HWCOM) and the College of Engineering & Computing (CEC) has resulted in a U.S. patent that could eventually revolutionize how heart disease is treated ― and prevent disease in those most at risk.

More than one in three deaths in the U.S. is attributed to cardiovascular disease. To tackle this significant health problem, Alexander Agoulnik, professor and interim chair of the Department of Human and Molecular Genetics at HWCOM, and Josh Hutcheson, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering at CEC, have joined forces.

The patent was awarded for their collaborative invention of an anti-calcification composition and the methods they developed to use it to treat and prevent cardiovascular disease. In the past, the researchers have spearheaded separate studies that target the bone-like calcifications that often form in blood vessels and lead to heart attacks and stroke.

This work builds upon the discoveries each of them has made in their respective labs and in collaborative studies with the researchers at the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences at the National Institutes of Health. Their invention centers on the discovery of small-molecule compounds that can activate a receptor of relaxin, a peptide hormone that has anti-fibrotic effects.

“We know that current treatment methods, such as lipid-lowering medications, lower the risk of a cardiovascular event,” Agoulnik said. “However, they do nothing to get rid of existing pathology, and there are currently no effective pharmacotherapies available to prevent or treat vascular calcifications.”

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