PhD student, Gerald Maarman visits the Excellence Cluster CardioPulmonary System (ECCPS) translational research centre in Giessen, Germany

Duration of visit: 1st August 2013-31 August 2013

Excellence Cluster CardioPulmonary System (ECCPS), Giessen, Germany

Director: Prof. Ralph Schermuly

Overview of visit, general contribution and techniques learnt

Gerald’s PhD project investigates the cardioprotective effects of a natural product called melatonin in rat model of monocrotaline induced pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH). This model develops PAH as an underlying cause which leads to cardiac hypertrophy. Gerald’s PhD assesses the effects of melatonin on cardiac hypertrophy but as melatonin may reverse/improve the underlying PAH it will also reverse he cardiac hypertrophy leaving no opportunity for Gerald to study the molecular processes of this hypertrophic process. For this reason he will need to test melatonin in a model that does in fact develop cardiac hypertrophy without PAH. Such a model is the rat model of pulmonary artery banding during which these animals develop pressure overload induced cardiac hypertrophy or more specifically, right ventricular hypertrophy.

This model is unfortunately unvailable in South Africa (SA) but has already been established at the ECCPS in Germany by our colleagues where I was given  an opportunity to acquire the skills from the model at their laboratory. During my stay , I learnt how to perform the surgical procedure to induce hypertrophy in these animals as well as acquiring the technique of specialized histological staining to assess pulmonary muscularisation, medical thickening and cardiomyocyte size. Furthermore, I learned how to perform right heart catheterisation for the measurement of cardiac hemodynamic parameters. This I performed with the Millar catheter or custom made fluid filled catheter. None, of the above techniques are currently available at the Hatter Institute, therefore, I am on the verge of  establishing it there.

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