On Friday March 31st, some of the Myocarditis Foundation Board Members visited and toured the Myocarditis Research Laboratory of Dr. DeLisa Fairweather. It has been said that “A picture is worth a thousand words”, and that is so true.
To begin with, Dr. Fairweather conducted a presentation on her research of “Sex Differences as a Tool in Myocarditis Research”.
Why do more men develop Myocarditis and Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM)? Dr. Fairweather believes that males response to a virus cause worse myocarditis due to higher levels of testosterone.
She believes that an early diagnostic tool needs to be developed so that myocarditis can be detected before it goes to DCM. (1 to 3 months after myocarditis strikes is when DCM develops in animal models and most adults.) In children, DCM can happen happen quickly because they do not have a well developed immune system. Diagnosis by biopsy is difficult the further out from the initial infection you go because the inflammation is gone by then. The earlier the diagnosis is made, the better the outcome for the patient.
In her lab, they use animal and cell culture models to study how coxsackievirus leads to myocarditis and the mechanisms that can be targeted to diagnosis and treat the disease. It was amazing to see an echocardiogram being done on a mouse with the same machine that is used on humans. The probe is only fractionally smaller, but the skill that Dr. Bruno has working with them is nothing short of amazing!
They are so caring to the mice making sure that they are well cared for. In fact, the other labs at the Mayo Clinic wanted to know what they do in Dr. Fairweather’s lab that the mice are so happy, not stressed and produce proliferatly. Their model is now used in the other labs as the standard protocol for studying myocarditis.
Seeing each aspect of the research process shed a brighter light on how important each part of the process actually is. Many thanks to Dr. Fairweather, Dr. Bruno, Erica, Anneliese and Jennifer for sharing their very important pieces of the research puzzle with us.