MELBOURNE, FLA. — Florida Tech senior John Santiago, a biological sciences major, earned first place at the Tri-Beta National Convention in Cincinnati, Ohio,
for a poster presentation about proteins in the smooth muscle cells of blood vessels and in heart muscle. The presentation was titled, “Modulation of
Cardiovascular Gap Junction Proteins by Stress Catecholamines and Their Metabolites.” Tri-Beta is the national biological sciences honor society.
In May, Santiago won the Johnson Award at the Tri-Beta Southeastern Regional Convention in Spartanburg, S.C., and a $750 travel grant that allowed him to
go to the national event.
Santiago conducted the research for his poster with his faculty adviser, Lisa Moore, Ph.D., Florida Tech biological sciences research professor; and Mark
Novak, Ph.D., Florida Tech associate professor of chemistry. The work concerns “broken heart syndrome” or the condition known medically as Takotsubo or
stress cardiomyopathy. This condition mimics a heart attack with symptoms including chest pain, shortness of breath, hypotension and cardiac shock. It is
evident primarily in older women in the United States.
The syndrome occurs following life-altering, traumatic or emotional events including natural disaster, a death in the family or car accident, for example,
and is characterized by highly elevated stress hormone levels (adrenaline). Although the condition often requires life support in intensive care units,
after stress hormone levels return to normal, symptoms cease and patients do not exhibit the lasting cardiac muscle damage that occurs with a heart attack.
“Our research indicates that changes in the production or ratio of gap junction proteins may affect blood vessel function and may potentially affect normal
heart rhythm,” said Santiago.