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HUNTINGTON - A Marshall University researcher has been awarded a grant from the National Institutes of Health to bolster her work related to heart and vascular diseases, particularly heart attacks.

Sandrine Pierre, associate scientific director at the Marshall Institute for Interdisciplinary Research, received a three-year, $440,000 NIH Research Enhancement Award for her and her team to explore a new path to limiting cardiac dysfunction, the university announced Thursday.

The study is ultimately hoped to develop new therapeutic methods for heart attacks and heart failure, building on prior research by Pierre that pinpointed protective properties in the Na/K-ATPase signaling pathway in the heart's muscle cells.

Pierre's team will test two separate interventions: in the acute phase of a heart attack, and the chronic phase following a heart attack, which leads to heart failure in heart attack survivors.

The NIH's Research Enhancement Award is designed to strengthen an institution's research capacity by bolstering smaller-scale projects.

The grant is provided through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

U.S. Sens. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., both of whom serve on the Senate Appropriations Committee, announced the grant Monday in a joint statement. Both noted heart disease's prevalence in West Virginia.

Heart attacks, properly called myocardial infarctions, are the leading cause of death in industrialized nations, and causes nearly a third of all deaths in the United States.

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