Dr. Wumesh KC, MD, PhD, of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, is the 2022 Fellowship Grant Recipient for the Myocarditis Foundation. Dr. KC’s Grant is being awarded in memory of a young man from Massachusetts, by the name of John Phillip Mello, who died in 2017 from Viral Myocarditis. His Family and Friends have been working since then to raise funding for a Research Grant to be awarded in his name.

Dr. KC is a native of Colorado and did his undergraduate studies at the University of Colorado followed by MD/PhD at Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis. During this time, he developed an interest in how the immune system shapes so many aspects of our daily health. After graduating medical school, he completed his medicine residency and cardiology fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania. Over the past several years he has developed a growing interest in applying the many tools of basic science research to study inflammatory conditions like myocarditis. He hopes that this project will provide some key insights into how cardiac sarcoidosis, (CS), which is a rare form of myocarditis, can damage the heart and cause many unwanted consequences. Ultimately, the goal of his project is to identify new drug targets for patients with heart inflammation.

Dr. KC’s Research Study is titled: Deep Immune Phenotyping of Granulomatous Myocarditis, and his preceptors are Dr. Paco Bravo, MD and Dr. E. John Wherry, PhD, both of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

The Project Summary in layman’s terms is as follows:

Heart failure happens when heart muscle becomes weak. People with heart failure become easily breathless and tired with little effort. Heart failure now affects 6 million Americans and is an important cause of death. It is key to understand the causes of heart failure so that we can find new treatments that will help prevent these early deaths. One cause of heart failure that we know little about is called cardiac sarcoidosis (CS). CS happens when the body’s defense system called the immune system attacks heart muscle. We can try to turn off the immune system with strong medications called steroids, but this does not work for everyone. Also, steroids can cause lots of unwanted side effects. We need a stronger understanding of how the immune system causes heart damage. This will help us figure out why some people fail to get better despite using medicines like steroids.

To create new CS medications, we first need to understand what is happening with the immune system. We recently showed that heart inflammation can be measured with special imaging called FDG-PET and CMR, and this information can tell us a lot about who is getting better with treatment. But this does not tell us why some people get better while others do not. One possible explanation is that the immune system is working in different ways for different people. How the immune system looks and changes in patients with CS is not known. We recently developed several tools that can measure how the immune system is working with a high level of detail. In this research proposal I will measure levels of inflammation when people are first diagnosed with CS. We will track inflammation over time for patients treated in steroid medicines. This work will help identify key drivers of CS inflammation. This will one day pave the way for making medicines specifically tailored to each individual and their level of inflammation.

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