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In this blog post, I’m going to discuss one of my main PhD projects: understanding what is happening in our body during the event of heart attacks. It is one of the deadliest diseases in the world, making it one of the most studied diseases as well. But we have a slightly unusual approach to study it, by coupling lab experiments and state-of-the-art computer and artificial intelligence algorithms.

Illustration of Heart Attack

Image Source: Cardio Metabolic Institute

Before I start explaining the research, I’d like to give a brief context. Our body is like a car. Both need chemical energy (from fuel or food) to be able to perform their activities properly. Not only that, the car and human body are both complex systems, where all parts are connected. Because of this interconnectivity, when a car breaks down, the problem is usually not only impacting one part, but also other parts. Similarly, human diseases are often not only affecting one organ, but it has a systemic effect on the body.

Even though heart attack has been studied a lot, most of the research focused only on the heart. In our study, we expanded our research by including other organs to understand the systemic changes caused by heart attack to our body, specifically to our metabolism. We collected data from the heart and 3 other important tissues (muscle, fat, and liver) from a mouse model that mimics a heart attack. After that, we built a computational model and biological networks to simulate the interconnectivity of multiple organs in the human body. By doing that, we were able to get a complete view of the disease that led us to some important findings. We found interruptions in energy production, metabolism, and immune systems, and also changes in protein productions. Moreover, we identified four genes that showed important responses to the heart attack. These genes can be explored further as candidates for early detection systems or treatment for heart attack.

In summary, this study was able to reveal the systemic effect of a heart attack on the human body using the combination of experimental and computational biology. We hope that this study can help researchers to explore the mechanism of cardiovascular diseases, specifically heart attacks, and accelerate the discovery of new treatments for them.

PS: The full research is now published at eLife and can be accessed here