Giselle Meléndez, M.D., to Lead Study for American Heart Association

September 5, 2023

Giselle Melendez, MDGiselle Meléndez, M.D., assistant professor of cardiology and comparative medicine, will lead a study from the American Heart Association (AHA) Strategically Focused Research Network (SFRN) on Biologic Pathways of Chronic Psychosocial Stressors on Cardiovascular Health. Meléndez is serving as the PI for a large (~$2.4 million) nonhuman primate project.

Susan Appt, D.V.M., professor of pathology - comparative medicine; Heather Burkart DeLoid, D.V.M., assistant professor of pathology - comparative medicine; Carol Shively, Ph.D, professor of pathology - comparative medicine, and Jay Kaplan, Ph.D, emeritus professor of psychiatry and behavioral medicine, are her co-investigators. Wake Forest University School of Medicine researchers are partnering with Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) to discover how long-term, chronic stress can cause heart disease and how adding acute stress – stress that occurs more suddenly, like getting a cancer diagnosis – may impact the heart. As part of their research, they will study the molecular disarrangements of cardiac tissue induced by stress and how this causes heart failure.

Additionally, investigators will explore how different diet and exercise plans may impact stress and heart health and whether it may be beneficial to make changes to diet or exercise habits when experiencing stress to have healthy heart function. The researchers will collect information through pre-clinical science models in laboratories and clinical science involving human subjects. The project, led by Meléndez, is titled Role of Chronic Psychosocial Stress on Chemotherapy-Induced Cellular Senescence and Cardiac Fibrosis.

The collaborative $15 million research project, led by The Ohio State University, University of California Davis and the Pauley Heart Center at VCU will focus on learning more about how the body responds to chronic stress, as well as how certain interventions may help reduce health risks.

SFRNs enable groups of investigators conducting multiple projects in multiple locations to all focus on the same topic. Network investigators interact and meet regularly to share outcomes and ideas. The AHA began to fund SFRNs in 2015, adding one or two networks each year. The topics are chosen by AHA science leadership.

The AHA is dedicated to ensuring equitable health in all communities. Through collaboration with numerous organizations, and powered by millions of volunteers, the AHA funds innovative research, advocates for the public’s health and shares lifesaving resources.