Volatile anesthetic agents are widely used to anesthetize patients during surgery and imaging procedures, but they can have potentially hazardous effects on cardiac performance via calcium homeostasis. In addition, abnormal calcium homeostasis has been implicated in heart failure and cardiac arrhythmias.
We are interested in the basic mechanisms involved in the regulation of contraction in cardiac muscle under normal and pathologic conditions. Currently we are studying the effects of several anesthetics on myocardial contractility and calcium sensitivity using an animal model of right ventricular hypertrophy and heart failure. To accomplish this, we routinely use isolated cardiac muscle and dissociated single myocytes to make measurements of mechanical properties and intracellular ions. Additional projects involve techniques such as cell culture and gene transfer to alter the level expression of various proteins in the heart. Projects are also underway to investigate the mechanisms involved in myocardial preconditioning by intravenous and volatile anesthetics.