Dr. Dianna Milewicz
Dr. Dianna Milewicz

While they do a good job of keeping blood flowing most of the time, the four valves in your heart are not foolproof. Each year, about 5 million Americans are diagnosed with heart valve disease.

To learn more about what is behind this problem, the John S. Dunn Foundation recently awarded a seed research grant to Dianna Milewicz, M.D., Ph.D., of The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) and K. Jane Grande-Allen, Ph.D., of Rice University.

The John S. Dunn Collaborative Research Awards were created to support work involving Rice’s BioScience Research Collaborative and Gulf Coast Consortia organizations such as UTHealth. Research seed grants are worth up to $100,000.

Milewicz and Grande-Allen are designing a tool to study the heart valves of rodents as a way to learn about factors that cause heart disease. They are particularly interested in how these factors affect people who are genetically predisposed to valve defects.

Milewicz is the President George Bush Chair in Cardiovascular Medicine, director of the Division of Medical Genetics and vice-chair of the Department of Internal Medicine at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth. Grande-Allen is a professor of engineering at Rice University.

Milewicz is also on the faculty of The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston, where she directs the school’s M.D./Ph.D. program.