Research | Queen’s University Canada

Kimberly Dunham-Snary

Kimberly Dunham-Snary

Improving care for cardiometabolic diseases is one of the main health challenges of our time: this research will elucidate how dysfunction(s) in mitochondria (the "powerhouse" of the cell) can lead to, or worsen obesity, cardiovascular disease and hypertension, creating knowledge that will lead to new prevention and treatment strategies.

[Photo of Dr. Kimberly Dunham-Snary]
Canada Research Chair in Mitochondrial and Metabolic Regulation in Health and Disease
Tier 2

Cardiometabolic health on target

Obesity, cardiovascular disease, hypertension and other cardiometabolic issues are among the leading causes of death globally. Identifying opportunities for prevention and early intervention is key to saving lives.

Dr. Kimberly Dunham-Snary, Canada Research Chair in Mitochondrial and Metabolic Regulation in Health and Disease, is looking for biological "fingerprints" to identify populations at risk for cardiometabolic diseases (CMD), allowing patients and healthcare providers to take early action.

It is known that CMD are associated with dysfunctional mitochondria – the organelle responsible for energy production within the cell. But the complex ways in which mitochondrial alterations can lead to inflammation and other cell abnormalities involved in CMD are yet to be determined. The pathway to finding answers might be through leveraging big data on genetics and metabolism.

Mitochondria have their own DNA, inherited from their mother, that differs depending on a person’s ancestry. Scientists believe prehistoric stresses shaped mitochondrial function and led to differences in ancestral subpopulations. This may explain why some groups are at a higher risk for CMD, even though humans no longer experience the same evolutionary stressors. Moreover, mitochondrial functions can be impacted by external factors like high-fat diet and changes in metabolism, and dysregulation in mitochondrial shape (joining together and breaking apart, called "dynamics") has also been associated with several diseases.

Dr. Dunham-Snary’s research will use a translational approach to clarify the cellular mechanisms of CMD, from a one-of-a-kind preclinical model of disease to patient care, and combining data on gene expression and metabolism. The aim of this program is to develop new tools for early diagnosis and to identify new therapeutic targets.