One of the 2023 Fellowship Grants was awarded to Dr. Swati Sharma, of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, for her work on: “The Protective Role of Platelet Protease-activated Receptor4 (PAR4) in Coxsackievirus (CVB3) Myocarditis”.

Dr. Sharma came to the United States from India, in December of 2021. Based on her pre-existing background in blood coagulation and willingness to learn about viral infections and their impact on coagulopathy, she applied to Dr.Antoniak’s lab at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, to continue her scientific training. The Antoniak Lab gave her an opportunity to expand her knowledge and learn about infection induced procoagulant phenotype. Under Dr. Antoniak’s guidance she learned about myocarditis and developed an interest in this understudied field.

Dr. Sharma’s proposed work will provide an important bridge towards her own independent research interest investigating the effects of viral infections on the blood coagulation and their role in inflammatory heart diseases.

(Dr. Silvio Antoniak was the 2009 Fellowship Grant Recipient from the Myocarditis Foundation for his study on Viral Myocarditis.)

Dr. Swati Sharma’s Layman’s explanation of her Myocarditis Research Project

Inflammation of heart is one of the leading causes of sudden death in children and young adults. Inflammation can be caused by viral infections. An abnormal immune response to initial viral infection is a major driving factor. We currently lack effective treatment approaches for virus-induced heart inflammation. In infections, small circulating blood cells called platelets, that are usually involved in limiting blood loss during injury, are activated. Importantly, platelet overactivation can also lead to the formation of blood clots that cause heart attacks and strokes. In this application, I will show that platelets play an active role in preventing virus-induced inflammation of the heart by changing the immune response to the virus. Here, I intend to show that platelet activation protects against virus-induced heart inflammation. I propose that viral infection activates the platelets, through the receptor PAR4. Platelet activation is needed to release platelet components, especially small RNA fragments. One of these RNA fragments is miR223. miR223 can reduce heart inflammation by enhancing pathways that are anti-inflammatory. One of the cells responding to platelet miR223 are immune cells called macrophages. I intend to show that platelets activation limits disease by increasing macrophage miR223 levels. Thus, reducing the inflammation in the heart in a mouse model of viral-induced heart inflammation. Moreover, I will show a potential therapeutic approach by using platelets to deliver miR223 as treatment of viral-induced heart inflammation. Thus, this project will reveal a new way of protecting the heart against viral infections, preventing inflammation of the heart, and reducing the number of patients requiring heart transplantation. My research will help patients in the US to live longer and healthier lives.

Congratulations to Dr. Swati Sharma on the award for her myocarditis research study!

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