NEOMED researcher a 'Top Dog'

Dr. Maritza Mayorga gains$308,000 grant for heart research

By Diane Smith | Staff Writer Published:

The American Heart Association, as part of its National Scientist Development Grant Program, has awarded $308,000 to Northeast Ohio Medical University in support of Dr. Maritza Mayorga, research assistant professor in the NEOMED College of Medicine, for her research on regenerative medicine and cardiac repair in response to ischemic heart disease.

In addition to receiving funding, Mayorga was given the "Top Dog" award in recognition of her grant proposal, which placed first out of the nearly 50 proposals received by the AHA for the National Scientist Development Grant Program.

Mayorga joined the Department of Integrative Medical Sciences at NEOMED in July 2011, serving on a team of scientists under the direction of world-renowned cardiovascular researcher Dr. Marc S. Penn, professor of medicine and integrative medical sciences at NEOMED and director of research for the Summa Cardiovascular Institute at Summa Health Systems, who has supported her throughout the grant proposal process.

The AHA National Scientist Development Grant Program is designed to support highly promising beginning scientists in their progress toward independent study. The funding is meant to bridge the gap between a scientist's research training and his or her work as an independent investigator.

"Dr. Mayorga was honored by the American Heart Association on many levels--with funding for her research, recognition of her superior grant proposal and acknowledgment of her status as a rising scientist in the field of regenerative medicine," said Dr. William Chilian, professor and chair of integrative medical sciences in the College of Medicine at NEOMED. "I am very proud of her accomplishments and know this early career recognition and success is only the beginning of what Dr. Mayorga will achieve in her research pursuits."

The success of acute, or short-term, care of patients following instances of a heart attack has led to a growing population of patients who experience long-term heart failure. Dr. Mayorga's research looks at the role of stem cell based repair of the heart and damaged areas surrounding the heart following a heart attack in hopes of better understanding the molecular mechanisms associated with that repair.

"Heart disease continues to be the leading cause of death in the United States, and Dr. Mayorga's work, as well as the work of our University's regenerative medicine program, is imperative to enhancing our understanding of the molecular signaling pathways involved in stem cell based cardiac repair in ischemic heart disease," said Walter E. Horton Jr., vice president for research and dean for the College of Graduate Studies at NEOMED. "By conducting basic and translational investigations in these areas, we look to promote the development of future therapeutic approaches that will improve the outcome of patients with ischemic heart disease."

Mayorga earned her master's degree from Autonomous University of Barcelona, Spain, in immunology and her doctoral degree in basic medical science. She lives in Beachwood.

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