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November 17, 2019
 

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$404,889 grant from the National Heart Lung Blood Institute

Boyd Rorabaugh, Ph.D., professor of pharmacology and cell biology, principal investigator; Manoranjan D’Souza, Ph.D., assistant professor of pharmacology, co-investigator

The Ohio Northern University Raabe College of Pharmacy has received a $404,889 grant from the National Heart Lung Blood Institute to study the impact of methamphetamine on the heart.

Boyd Rorabaugh, Ph.D., professor of pharmacology and cell biology, is principal investigator, and Manoranjan D’Souza, Ph.D., assistant professor of pharmacology, is a co-investigator on the project.

This funding will provide opportunities for more ONU students to become involved in research while enhancing understanding of the long-term impact of methamphetamine abuse.

Rorabaugh and D’Souza have previously collaborated on multiple research projects. The research team also includes Sarah Seeley, laboratory technician, and multiple ONU students. This three-year study will begin in August.

The 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health indicated that approximately 6 percent of United States residents more than 12 years of age have used methamphetamine at least once during their lifetime and that methamphetamine abuse is most prevalent among young adults 18-34 years of age. Notably, this group includes women of childbearing age.

In addition, the Infant Development, Environment and Lifestyle (IDEAL) study estimated that 5.2 percent of pregnant women used methamphetamine during their pregnancies.

Approximately one-third of pregnant methamphetamine users decreased their methamphetamine use during pregnancy. The other two-thirds either increased their use or did not change their pattern of methamphetamine use between the first and third trimesters of pregnancy, resulting in the prenatal exposure of their children to methamphetamine.

“Most studies of prenatal methamphetamine exposure have focused on behavioral or cognitive outcomes,” said Rorabaugh. “In contrast, we know very little about how prenatal methamphetamine exposure impacts the adult cardiovascular system. Our work is designed to understand how prenatal exposure to methamphetamine impacts cardiac function during adulthood.”

          

Prior work in Rorabaugh’s laboratory demonstrated that female rats that were prenatally exposed to methamphetamine developed hypersensitivity to ischemic injury (cardiac damage that occurs during a heart attack) when they became adults.

Surprisingly, prenatal exposure to methamphetamine did not have this effect on their adult male siblings. The same effect was observed in female rats (but not their male siblings) that were exposed to the drug during early adulthood. Importantly, the effects of exposure to methamphetamine (either prenatally or during early adulthood) persist following prolonged abstinence from the drug. 

Rorabaugh’s data suggest that women who were exposed to methamphetamine (either prenatally or during early adulthood) may experience more extensive cardiac injury if they subsequently experience a heart attack later in life. 

Recognizing that methamphetamine abuse is most prevalent among young adults, another goal of the study is to determine whether methamphetamine use during early adulthood causes the heart to become more sensitive to injury if a heart attack occurs later in life.

“Our preliminary data suggest that methamphetamine exposure induces cardiac changes that are long-lasting and potentially irreversible even after methamphetamine use has been terminated,” said Rorabaugh. “We are also trying to determine whether exposure to methamphetamine during early adulthood results in a worsening of cardiac injury during the geriatric phase of life when a heart attack is most likely to occur.”  

“It is important to recognize that drug addiction has long-term consequences that can continue even after someone quits abusing the drug,” said D’Souza.         

Rorabaugh has received funding (either as principal investigator or co-investigator) from five different NIH grants totaling more than $2 million since 2010. Several students who have worked in Rorabaugh’s lab have matriculated into high profile Ph.D. programs after graduating from ONU.