Dr. Robert Rose
Keeping the beat: Dr. Robert Rose seeks a path to prevent age- and frailty-related arrhythmias
Dr. Robert Rose wnts to harness the power of proteins produced naturally in the body to protect the heart from scar formation that leads to a slow or irregular heart rate as we age or become frail.
"Over time as as we develop more health problems, such as high blood pressure or diabetes, our heart rate slows down or becomes erratic and the heart becomes susceptible to arrhythmias," explains Dr. Rose, an associate professor at Dalhousie Medical School. "This is due in part to the gradual build up of scar tissue in the atria and sinus node in the upper chambers of the heart."
The sinus node is like the heart's internal pacemaker - every time it generates an electrical impulse, the heart makes a beat. "As scar tissue builds up in the sinus node, it blocks, distorts or slows down these beat-keeping electrical impulses," Dr. Rose says. "A slow heart rate leads to fatigue and an overall decline in health, which further contributes to frailty, while an arrhythmia can trigger sudden death—especially in heart failure patients."
Dr. Rose is working with colleagues at Dalhousie Medical School, including Dr. Greg Hirsch, Dr. Susan Howlett, Dr. Jean-François Légaré and Dr. John Sapp to understand the relationships between age, frailty and heart disease and find better ways of diagnosing, preventing and treating heart disease.
In his lab, Dr. Rose and his team are studying how small protein molecules called natriuretic peptides protect the heart from scarring. "we've found that we can prevent scarring in the sinus node and atria by flooding the heart with these proteins, and that this reduces arrhythmia that start in these regions of the hear," he says. "We foresee a day When natriuretic peptides could be used to protect this sinus node, prevent arrhythmias, minimize heart attack scars and forestall heart failure."