2014 Vivien Thomas Young Investigator Award Recipient

On November 18th, 2014, Quintin Quinones, MD, PhD, received the 2014 Vivien Thomas Young Investigator Award from the American Heart Association for his project entitled, “Differences in Electron Transport Chain Proteins in the Hearts of Hibernating Arctic Ground Squirrels Compared with Rats after Surgical Ischemia and Reperfusion: A Convergence of Mammalian Cardioprotective Strategies.”

The research study focused on the link between natural metabolic depression, as seen during hibernation, and organ protection for cardiac surgery, an unmet clinical need. Specifically, changes in quantities of proteins in the heart muscle following experimental cardiac surgery utilizing cardiopulmonary bypass and circulatory arrest were compared in a natural hibernator (arctic ground squirrel) and rat, using a mass spectrometry proteomic approach. The first of its kind, the study identified robust attenuation of cardiac damage in hibernators, accompanied by protective mechanisms involving decreased levels of mitochondrial electron transport chain proteins, increased efficiency of fatty acid oxidation, reduced glucose utilization, and decrease in proteins involved in innate immunity and reperfusion injury. These are important targets for development of novel therapeutics for organ protection in the setting of ischemia-reperfusion injury. Ironically, the results showed similarity between the mechanisms actively employed by hibernating mammals to cope with extremes of physiology and the incompletely understood reversible reduction in cardiac contractility in response to chronic ischemia termed “myocardial hibernation,” thought to represent an adaptive process. The research was conducted as part of an ongoing collaboration between Duke University and the Institute of Arctic Biology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, where world expert hibernation biologist Brian Barnes, PhD, has developed protocols to facilitate mammalian hibernation in captivity.

The Vivien Thomas Young Investigator Award acknowledges the accomplishments of early career investigator members of the Cardiovascular Surgery and Anesthesia Council who are focusing on fundamental and applied cardiac surgical research. The award honors the legacy of Vivien T. Thomas, a surgical technician who conducted groundbreaking research into the causes of hemorrhagic and traumatic shock, eventually becoming a key player in pioneering a procedure used to treat the blue baby syndrome (the anastomosis of the subclavian artery to the pulmonary artery). This defied many medical taboos against operating on the heart, and laid the foundation for the revolutionary surgery that became a lifesaver for many children suffering from congenital heart defects.

Dr. Quinones, who was chosen out of five finalists, is the first anesthesiologist to ever win this award. His mentor, Mihai Podgoreanu, MD, was a finalist in 2005 for his work investigating the reasons why patients carrying specific variants of genes involved in the body’s immune response were significantly more likely to suffer heart tissue damage after cardiac surgery. Dr. Quinones joined Podgoreanu’s lab three years ago as a PGY3 resident enrolled in the departmental ACES program, and became part of the team conducting winter experiments at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and summer experiments at Duke. He was the recipient of a Research Fellowship Grant from the Foundation for Anesthesia Education and Research (FAER), which funded part of this project. Dr. Podgoreanu has guided Dr. Quinones from project conception to completion, while laying the foundations for his path to independence.

“We are very proud of Drs. Quinones and Podgoreanu,” said Dr. Joseph Mathew, interim Chairman of the Department of Anesthesiology. “Their work and success epitomize all that the Department is aiming for with regards to mentorship, faculty development, and the expansion of the frontiers of our research.”

Congratulations, Dr. Quinones, for your hard work that has led to this prestigious award!