The Myocarditis Foundation is proud to announce that Dr. Jennifer Myers, PhD, of the University of Oklahoma has been awarded our 2022 Fellowship Grant Recipient for the 2023-2024 Academic Year!
Her interest in science began at an early age and for as long as she could remember, she loved looking for “clues” and solving problems. Her passion for science led her to a bachelor’s degree (summa cum laude) in biomedical sciences at the University of Oklahoma and a doctoral degree in microbiology/immunology from the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.
As a graduate student, working toward her PhD, she joined the laboratory of Dr. Madeleine Cunningham. What she found intriguing in Dr. Cunningham’s laboratory, was the translational aspects of human studies in myocarditis.
The goal of her research is to understand the mechanisms and immune phenotypes governing inflammatory heart disease such as myocarditis, and the biomarkers of non-recovery and progression to subsequent heartfailure. With no immunomodulatory drugs approved for treatment of myocarditis to prevent permanent heartdamage and heart failure or transplant, a more comprehensive understanding of specific immune mechanismsin human myocarditis, dilated cardiomyopathy, and heart failure is needed.
Because her studies are translational, they will make a difference in the lives of those with inflammatory heart disease and lead to better identification of those who will have poor outcomes as well as provide a basis for new treatments. Dr. Myers has found that speaking with patients and their families opens lines of communication between the scientific community and the lay public and opened her eyes to the suffering caused by these devastating heart diseases that can lead to the need for heart transplantation.
It was a wonderful experience to be given the opportunity to interact with these patients and their families during a Myocarditis Foundation meeting. Outside of the laboratory, I am dedicated to my family, including my husband and two young children, and we enjoy spending time outdoors with our two Labrador retrievers and attending sporting events together.
A “layman’s summary” of Dr. Myers’ research study on “Autoimmune Mechanisms in Human Myocarditis.” is explained below.
Biomarkers to identify myocarditis patients who will not spontaneously recover heart function is an unmet clinical need to inform treatment decisions and prevent progression to dilated cardiomyopathy, heart failure, and transplant. Antibodies that target a person’s own heart (autoantibodies) have been reported for years without a full understanding of their role in disease, partly due to a lack of longitudinal studies and more focus on cellular immune responses. Our study is practical, novel, and needed to understand disease-causing heart autoantibodies in myocarditis. We plan to investigate these autoantibodies to identify patients who will have poor outcomes and to determine the genes that are altered in heart cells in response to the autoantibodies present in disease. We will investigate the hypothesis that autoantibodies against the heart protein cardiac myosin will alter genes leading to fibrosis and gene responses leading to cell death in cardiac cells. Our study will provide important new insights into autoimmune mechanisms of myocarditis and biomarkers for development of new diagnostic and treatment strategies.
Dr. Jennifer Myers Research Grant is named in memory of John Phillip Mello, a 26-year-old Viral Myocarditis victim who died in 2017. His Family and Friends have been working on raising awareness of the disease and funding for a Myocarditis Foundation Fellowship Grant in his name over the past few years since his passing.
Please join the Myocarditis Foundation in congratulating Dr. Myers and welcoming her as the Foundation’s 25th Fellowship Research Grant recipient!