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Membrane Biology

Membrane Biology

The Cardiac Membrane Biology Laboratory focuses on deciphering cardiac related health issues via the intricate understanding of the sodium/potassium pump, a vital molecule for the contraction of heart cells.

Current Research Areas

Design of Cardiotonic Steroids Optimised to Cause Sodium Pump Stimulation

Effects of digitalis glycosides in heart failure are attributed to inhibition of the membrane sodium pump but it is now known that heart cell sodium levels are high in heart failure, that inhibition of the sodium pump is harmful and that beneficial treatments stimulate the pump. We identified a digitalis glycoside that paradoxically can stimulate the pump. Based on experimentation and drug modelling we aim to make a digitalis derivative that optimally stimulates the sodium pump for the treatment of heart failure.

Prevention of Anthracycline-induced Cardiomyopathy

Heart muscle damage and heart failure is a serious side effect of cancer treatments and it is not uncommon that the life expectancy of cancer sufferers is limited due to heart disease induced by the cancer treatments, rather than by cancer itself. In a novel approach to reduce heart muscle damage, Doctor Chia-chi Liu and Professor Rasmussen have developed a small peptide molecule that greatly increases the sensitivity of cancer cells to the drug, while its effects on the heart cells are much less pronounced. This may allow use of lower anthracycline doses and reduced risk of heart muscle damage while maintaining or even enhancing anticancer effects.

Reversing Oxidative Inhibition of the Sodium Pump by Beta3 Adrenergic Agonists

Our studies, initially based on molecular and cellular mechanisms, overturned the consensus view that the beta 3 adrenergic receptor mediates harmful effects. We have now supported this concept by studies in animal models of heart failure and with the demonstration of beneficial effects of beta3 adrenergic agonists in human heart failure.

Group Leader:  Dr Chia-chi Liu 



Combatting Chronic Disease


Cardiothoracic & Vascular Health


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