Dawn Smith/Libin Institute
Libin Cardiovascular Institute of Alberta
Rob Rose, PhD is excited to be back at the Libin Cardiovascular Institute of Alberta.
An associate professor in the department of cardiacsciences as well as physiology and pharmacology at the University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine, Rose arrived in January and is now in the process of setting up his research lab.
It’s a busy time for the basic/translational researcher, who comes to the Libin Institute from Dalhousie University, where he directed a research lab and was a faculty member in the department of physiology for nearly a decade.
It is also an exciting time.
“It’s a way to create an opportunity for yourself to work with other people,” said Rose of his decision to come to the Libin Institute.
Rose is no stranger to the University of Calgary.
He completed his PhD at the University in cardiac electrophysiology (2000-2005) under Wayne Giles, a professor in the faculty of kinesiology and the department of physiology and pharmacology, before pursuing postdoctoral training at the University of Toronto (2005-2008).
Rose’s research interests are in the study of cardiac arrhythmias that occur either due to underlying genetic mutations or in the setting of common forms of heart disease, such as high blood pressure, heart failure or diabetes.
He explains more than 50 per cent of patients in heart failure die from cardiac arrhythmias.
More specifically, Rose’s lab studies dysfunction and disease of the sinus node, the heart’s natural pacemaker, a unique area of research.
“There are few labs that study the sinus node the way we do,” he said, explaining a major focus is to develop techniques for accuracy and effectiveness.
Rose is also interested in studying arrhythmias in the atria, such as atrial fibrillation, which is very common in patients with high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease.
Specifically, much of Rose’s work is focused on understanding the role of natriuretic peptides, a family of naturally occurring hormones that have protective functions in cardiac tissue, and examining how they can be synthetically engineered to treat heart arrhythmias and heart disease.
Rose explained researchers now know these peptides have a potent and direct effect on heart tissue, and can have impacts on both the structural and electrical remodeling that occur as a result of heart disease. For example, these peptides have an effect on fibrosis, or scarring, of heart tissue, which can cause arrhythmias.
“If these peptides can have effects on both of these processes, then you have a great opportunity, potentially, to do something good with them,” said Rose.
Rose said studying natriuretic peptides is difficult, as their effects are very complex, as evidenced by the contradictory nature of the scientific literature on them.
However, Rose embraces the challenge and says understanding how the peptides respond differently in diseased and normal heart conditions is key.
Rose’s laboratory is currently looking at the effects of natriuretic peptides on sinoatrial node function and atrial arrhythmogenesis in normal and diseased hearts, as well as their effects on human atrial electrophysiology and post-operative atrial fibrillation in cardiac surgery patients.
He is also researching the mechanisms for impaired autonomic nervous system regulation of heart rate and sinoatrial node function, and the mechanisms underlying the occurrence of atrial fibrillation in diabetes mellitus.
According to Rose, this work has been a decade in the making.
“I envisioned many of these experiments 10 years ago, but we had to set up the framework,” he said.
Rose has two major Canadian Institutes of Health Research grants, for studying the role of natriuretic peptides in heart disease and for researching cardiac arrhythmias in diabetics.
He has published approximately 40 peer-reviewed articles and several book chapters.