Tong Lu, M.D., Ph.D., is a principal investigator of cardiovascular disease. Dr. Lu's research interest is focused on understanding the pathological role of cardiovascular ion channel dysregulation in disease status of conditions such as diabetes, heart failure and arrhythmias. Dr. Lu and his team strive to discover the molecular mechanisms underlying ion channel dysfunction in cardiomyocytes and coronary arterial smooth muscle cells. For this work, they use state-of-the-art patch clamp techniques and in silico methods, coupled with a wide range of cellular, biochemical and molecular approaches. His team seeks to develop new strategies for the prevention and treatment of ion channelopathy in cardiovascular disease and diabetes mellitus using these approaches.
- Dysregulation of the large conductance Ca2+-activated potassium (BK) channels in the coronary arteries of patients with diabetes mellitus.
- Discovery of cardiac ion channel dysfunction and electrical remodeling in cardiomyopathy.
- Identification of the gene risk variants — such as canonical transient receptor potential cation channel, subfamily C, member 6 (TRPC6) — in patients with chemotherapy-induced cardiotoxicity.
Significance to patient care
Diabetes mellitus has become an epidemic in the United States. A large body of evidence indicates that diabetes is an independent risk of cardiovascular disease, which is the leading cause of death in both men and women with diabetes. The BK channels are densely expressed in the coronary arteries, controlling the coronary vascular tone and myocardial perfusion. However, coronary BK-channel expression and function are diminished in diabetes. Dr. Lu is especially interested in studying the molecular mechanisms leading to BK channel dysfunction in coronary arteries. He seeks to determine if the BK channels represent potential molecular targets for the treatment of cardiovascular complications in patients with diabetes.
Anthracyclines have been widely used for cancer therapy. However, a significant percentage of adult patients receiving anthracyclines develop a reduced left ventricular ejection fraction at six months. It is commonly accepted that TRPC6 is a risk gene for chemotherapy-induced congestive heart failure. Dr. Lu's team has developed a novel in silico method to predict TRPC6 risk variants in patients with cancer. This is followed by intracellular Ca2+ imaging and patch clamp recoding to further assess these TRPC6 mutant channel function. The long-term goal is to reduce the incidence of chemotherapy-induced heart failure. Dr. Lu also hopes to improve the clinical outcome in cancer patients who carry a high risk of TRPC6 gene variants.
- Principal investigator, R01 grant, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, and National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, 2022.
- Co-principal investigator, U.S. Army Medical Research grant, Department of Defense, 2022.
- Principal investigator, American Diabetes Association.
- Innovative Basic Science award.
- Junior Faculty Development award, 2007.
- First-place winner, Cardiovascular Investigator Award, Central Society for Clinical and Translational Research, 2000.