The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute has renewed and expanded a Baylor College of Medicine training program in the molecular physiology of the cardiovascular system for five years.

The program, funded at $2,273,970 over five years in the latest grant, is led by Dr. Susan Hamilton, chair of molecular physiology and biophysics at BCM with co-directors Dr. Mary Dickinson and Dr. Xander Wehrens, both associate professors in the same department.

This training program has been part of the school's educational offerings since 1989, training 32 predoctoral and 68 postdoctoral students since its inception. The current grant funds 10 students per year for five years. It is the second largest such training program in the College, exceeded only by the M.D./Ph.D. program. Both are T32 grants funded by the National Institutes of Health to provide focused and state-of-the art training in a particular area of biomedicine.

"This program seeks out talented young scientists who want to work at the interface between basic and clinical research," said Hamilton.

In particular, they work in four different areas:

  • The electrophysiology of the heart and the excitability of its tissues and cells.
  • How the heart develops and the role that adult stem cells play in this process.
  • The cellular processes and signals that lead to stroke and other problems affecting the vascular system of the brain.
  • Developing new therapeutic strategies through tissue engineering and other emerging technologies.

Hamilton said, "The strong collaborative research infrastructure at Baylor College of Medicine and partner institutions in the Texas Medical Center, and the diverse background of our mentors (basic scientists and practicing clinicians) provide unique resources for the trainees affiliated with this training program. Moreover, these pre- and postdoctoral fellows will be trained as leaders of teams of scientists and physicians that collaborate in translational research."

Trainees participate in an interdisciplinary training program comprised of didactic courses, grant writing workshops, journal clubs, seminar series, ethics training, and regular interactions with training faculty.

The grant also supports the newly formed cardiovascular graduate track within the Molecular Physiology and Biophysics graduate program. The new graduate track expands the scope of the previous inter-departmental cardiovascular graduate training program. Many of the mentors come from other Texas Medical Center institutions, including the Rice University bioengineering faculty. Most of the mentors have accepted joint or adjunct appointments in the department of molecular physiology and biophysics.

"We view this as a major step toward strengthening cardiovascular collaborations between BCM and our partner institutions within the TMC," said Hamilton.

Hamilton holds the L.F. McCollum Chair in Molecular Physiology.