AHA grant enables NIU to study enzyme

By Suzanne M. Sapienza

A $40,000 grant from the Illinois affiliated American Heart Association is enabling NIU’s chemistry department to research the heart and blood vessels.

The grant-funded project, which began July 1, involves the study of an enzyme in the heart tissue that is used to convert foods into energy.

Assistant Chemistry Professor Gary Baker said the enzyme is necessary to break down carbohydrates and fats to produce energy.

In order to examine the enzyme, it must be removed from the heart tissue. Baker is developing ways to remove the enzyme without altering its structure.

He said he ultimately hopes to accomplish a better understanding of heart defects, especially in those born with deficiencies of this enzyme.

This is Baker’s second AHA funded project. The first study ran from July 1, 1989 to June 30, 1991 before the new grant was awarded.

Baker said he is very appreciative toward the help he has received from graduate students.

“I am pleased that I’ve been fortunate enough to attract such good caliber grad students. They have contributed immensely toward the better understanding of how the enzyme works,” Baker said.

NIU’s is one of 29 biomedical and clinical investigations in the nation currently being funded with $1,067 by the AHA.

More than $500,000 was invested in nine Illinois-based projects at universities such as Illinois State at Normal, Southern Illinois at Carbondale, University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana and NIU.

Some topics these projects are investigating include the effects of exercise and diet on obesity, the effects of hypertension on heart growth, the effect of exercise on heart damage and the effects of unsaturated fatty acids on blood cholesterol.