Is zinc important in ensuring the normal heartbeat?

Understanding new mechanisms of cardiac ryanodine receptor regulation by zinc (Mr Gavin Robertson)

Samantha Pitt (lead researcher)

St Andrews, University of

Start date: 27 January 2015 (Duration 3 years)

In healthy people, calcium is released from large stores in heart cells through specialised ‘gates’ called ryanodine receptors. The release of calcium into the cell causes the heart to beat strongly. But in patients with heart failure, calcium release becomes erratic and the heart’s rhythm becomes abnormal – this is called an arrhythmia. Scientists recently found a link between high levels of zinc within cells and several types of heart disease, but the exact role of zinc in the heart and how it influences calcium release within heart cells is poorly understood.

Dr Samantha Pitt and colleagues from the University of St Andrews have recently found that zinc within the cell can fine-tune the release of calcium by regulating the opening and closing of the ryanodine receptor. Their findings alter the current ‘textbook’ understanding of how calcium is released in heart muscle, and the team thinks that zinc may contribute to arrhythmia development.

Dr Pitt has been awarded a PhD studentship to allow a student to find out exactly how zinc controls ryanodine receptors in the heart.

This research will advance our understanding of the regulation of the heart beat in health and disease. It may uncover new ways to treat heart failure and arrhythmias.

Project details

Grant amount £107,172
Grant type Fellowship
Application type PhD Studentship
Start Date 27 January 2015
Duration 3 years
Reference FS/14/69/31001
Status In progress

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