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Problems of having a sweet heart

Dr. Kimberley Mellor (far left) and her team (from left): Parisa Koutsifeli, Xun (Cookie) Li, Calum McIndoe, Dr Lorna Daniels, Marco Annandale

Dr Kimberley Mellor of the University of Auckland will investigate the mysterious nature of glycogen in the heart, revealing its impact on hauora health and disease


Published on 5 November 2019  

The prevalence of heart disease is increasing worldwide. Glycogen is a way by which various tissue types can store glucose sugar energy reserves. Under metabolic stress conditions, such as fasting and diabetes, the heart also stores glycogen, despite the fact that fats rather than sugars are the primary source of energy for heart cells. Glycogen accumulation is commonly observed in many different heart disease settings but the mechanisms driving this accumulation are not well understood. Importantly, the consequences of this excess glycogen for the hauora of patients’ hearts are also largely unknown.

Dr Mellor has been awarded a Te Pūtea Rangahau a Marsden grant to examine the enigmatic biological processes of glycogen in the heart, and determine whether the glycogen response to metabolic stress is a help or hindrance to heart health. Dr Mellor and her team recently characterised a previously unknown glycogen processing pathway in the heart, which could be an important regulator of glycogen levels in both healthy and diseased hearts. The goal of their new study is to advance knowledge of the fundamental biology of glycogen regulation in the heart. They aim to generate exciting new discoveries about how intra-cellular glycogen accumulation is related to heart pump function.

Dr Mellor in lab

Dr. Mellor in the lab

Given the high prevalence of metabolic and cardiac disease in Aotearoa, with Māori and Pasifika people especially affected, the long-term benefit of this knowledge advance will have far reaching health and economic impact.