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Upstate MD/PhD student awarded American Heart Association fellowship, studying causes of heart disease

Gargi Mishra, an MD/PhD student at Upstate Medical University has been awarded with an American Heart Association Predoctoral Fellowship to help fund her studies for the next two years. Mishra is a member of Xin Jie Chen, PhD’s lab in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

Mishra was chosen by the AHA on the strength of her proposal to study the impact of the dysfunction of mitochondria in cells, and how this can contribute to heart disease. While the mitochondria require about 1,500 different proteins to function, they have to import them to fuel the body’s organs.

“If import is halted, perhaps by a protein getting clogged in a transport channel, mitochondria cannot function properly,” Mishra explains. “This phenomenon is like a clogged sink causing a flooded kitchen.”

Mishra plans on using yeast to mimic the process and try to prevent or reverse protein clogging. She’s hoping a better understanding of the basic science behind mitochondrial dysfunction can lead to future drug and therapeutic discoveries.

“While there are many drugs that treat heart disease, very few target mitochondrial function in the heart,” she said.

According to Mishra, her proposal was highly ranked by the AHA, emphasizing the importance of basic science research. “This has immense impact because ‘following the science’ can lead to discoveries of unexpected connections to real-world problems.” Ms

Mishra is grateful for the support she’s received from Upstate, especially her advisor Dr. Xin Jie Chen “for innumerable discussions to help develop this grant, as it went through many different versions before the final.” She also cited Drs. Steven D. Hanes, Leszek Kotula, and Amit Dhamoon, as well as Andrea Rhea for their support of her winning proposal.

“Their encouragement has allowed me to integrate and balance my PhD work with clinical interests in the fields of PM&R and Neurology—two specialties that I am most fascinated by as future career options,” she said.

Mishra, a native of Prune, India, earned her undergraduate degree from Mount Holyoke College, before enrolling at Upstate.

The American Heart Association awards predoctoral fellowships “to enhance the integrated research and clinical training of promising students who are matriculated in pre-doctoral or clinical health professional degree training programs and who intend careers as scientists, physician-scientists or other clinician-scientists, or related careers aimed at improving global cardiovascular, cerebrovascular and brain health.”


Caption: Gargi Mishra, an MD/PhD student in the lab with her adviser, Professor Xin Jie Chen, PhD. Mishra was awarded an American Heart Association fellowship to fund her research for two years.