June 26, 2019

WSU student wins Sarnoff Fellowship

Milan Kaushik, a third-year medical student at the Wayne State University School of Medicine, was awarded a prestigious one-year fellowship from the Sarnoff Cardiovascular Research Foundation. The award includes a $32,000 stipend and up to $8,000 for moving expenses and travel support.

The fellowship offers Kaushik, 25, the experience of conducting research in the Harvard-MIT Biomedical Engineering lab of Elazer Edelman, M.D., Ph.D., the Edward J. Poitras Professor of Medical Engineering and Science at MIT, professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, and a coronary care unit cardiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

Kaushik, originally from Beverly Hills, Mich., will take a gap year between his third and fourth year as a medical student to compete the fellowship. He received his undergraduate degree in Biochemistry and Biophysics from the University of Michigan. He plans to go into Internal Medicine and Cardiology, and will pursue a career combining clinical practice and research.

“This fellowship will provide the opportunity to learn how to be an effective investigator through mentorship from some of the top cardiovascular researchers in the country,” Kaushik said. “Given that Dr. Edelman is a practicing clinician, I will also learn how to balance clinical and research roles as an academic physician. Throughout this year and afterward, I will have access to Sarnoff members/alumni who can offer advice and mentorship throughout my career.”

Application for the fellowship required letters of recommendation, including from Kaushik’s mentor, Karin Przyklenk, Ph.D., director of the Wayne State University School of Medicine's Cardiovascular Research Institute, and professor of Physiology and of Emergency Medicine. A personal statement and a research proposal were also required, used to select 24 finalists invited to interview with a scientific committee in Boston. Fourteen finalists were selected after the interviews.

In his research proposal, Kaushik explained that heart failure is considered the last step of many diseases, and the classical treatment regimen includes drugs that function to reduce cardiac workload by targeting both neuronal and hormonal pathways such as beta blockers and ACE inhibitors. “While these options work for symptomatic relief, they provide marginal improvement in mortality and re-hospitalization rates,” he said. A potentially attractive strategy, which Kaushik will explore, focuses on an emerging major player in cardiac pathophysiology – maintenance of mitochondrial morphosis, or the balance between mitochondrial fission, fusion and cristae architecture. Favorable modulation of Opa1 expression (a protein-coding gene or Opa1 processing achieved by genetic manipulation of Yme1L (an enzyme involved in the maintenance of mitochondria abundant in the human heart) will attenuate the development of heart failure by favoring mitochondrial fusion, maintaining cristae (partitions within mitochondria) integrity and mitigating generation of reactive oxygen species in heart failure.

Dr. Edelman’s lab pioneered basic findings in vascular biology and the development and assessment of biotechnology. Dr. Edelman directs the Harvard-MIT Biomedical Engineering Center, which is dedicated to defining fundamental biologic processes and mechanisms of disease. BMEC programs span a wide range of disciplines, with its resources made available to investigators from MIT and Harvard.

Kaushik will design and execute his own experiments while in Dr. Edelman’s lab. His project, sponsored by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, focuses on determining the root cause for long-term mortality associated with drug-eluting stents.