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Nikki Posnack, Ph.D., Laboratory

Posnack 1

Our work is focused on investigating the influence of pharmacological and toxicological exposures on cardiovascular and autonomic function.

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About Our Lab

Does Biocompatibility Contribute to Transfusion-Related Adverse Effects

Nearly 15 million transfusions are performed in the United States each year. Despite the frequency, transfusion procedures are not without risk. Blood transfusion complications may be attributed to heavy exposure to plastic devices, which are fabricated with chemicals that exert endocrine disrupting properties.

Our laboratory is investigating whether medical device biocompatibility and chemical exposures are underlying contributors to cardiovascular and autonomic dysfunction. We are also investigating alternative materials in an effort to identify safer biomaterials, chemicals and/or surface coatings for transfusion devices and blood banking.

Assessing Pediatric Cardiac Safety, Toxicity and Therapeutic Targets

Pediatric cardiac research can be stalled by a shortage of appropriate models. Despite differences in neonatal, pediatric and adult hearts, our current knowledge is largely limited to adult heart physiology. Unfortunately, current pharmacological agents have been developed with the adult population in mind and can target mechanisms that are only found in the mature myocardium. A more representative model is needed to drive pediatric cardiovascular research.

Our laboratory is working to establish a pediatric animal model to monitor developmental changes in cardiac electrical activity and mechanical function. We are also working to translate these findings to humans by using tissue samples from pediatric patients undergoing cardiac surgery.

Red Blood Cell Lesion and the Impact on Cardiac Electrophysiology

Red blood cell (RBC) transfusions are a life-saving treatment for many critically ill children and adults. However, a series of biochemical, functional and metabolic changes are known to occur to preserved RBCs as they are stored over time. These changes are commonly referred to as red blood cell “storage lesion.” Several clinical studies have suggested that RBC storage lesion can contribute to adverse cardiac events and influence mortality and morbidity outcomes.

Our laboratory is investigating the changes that occur to stored RBCs over time (prior to patient blood transfusion) and how these changes can interfere with normal cardiac electrical activity.