Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women, accounting for 1 in 3 deaths. New treatments for heart disease have plateaued over the last two decades, and new pharmaceutical therapies to improve cardiac function are needed.  A major limitation to discovering new therapies that can improve heart cell function is the lengthy time for drug discovery, screening, and development.

In this collaboration, we are combining the interdisciplinary expertise of three Virginia Tech Faculty Members and their research teams.  Dr. David Brown is an expert in cardiac cell energetics and pharmaceutical development. Dr. Amrinder Nain is a pioneer in creating relevant platforms to measure cellular mechanics.  Dr. Ico Bukvic is a leader in representing data through sound, using sonification techniques to represent data in innovative new ways.

Pulling at the Heartstrings aims to create a completely new approach to understanding cell behavior.  By combining disciplines in bioenergetics, engineering, and creative technologies in music we are pioneering a new Cellular Stethoscope to advance drug testing beyond the visual interpretation of cellular responses. Sonification of cell behavior allows for the rapid recognition of behavioral patterns that can be related to responses to drug therapy.

The system created through this interdisciplinary collaboration will be an easily understandable, high-throughput method to screen novel drug therapies to mitigate burdens associated with heart disease.

Students from the School of Performing Arts, the College of Engineering, and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences will be working together to advance this platform.  ICAT and the College of Agriculture of Life Sciences are sponsoring the development of the Cellular Stethoscope.

Scientific abstracts and publications are currently in preparation for International Conference for Auditory Displays, the American Heart Association, the American Physiological Society, the American Society for Cell Biology, the Virginia Drug Discovery Consortium, and the Biomedical Engineering Society.  

The team intends to present the findings in an engaging way at the 2019 Virginia Tech Science Festival. 

We intend to submit proposals to the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.