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Pictured from left to right: Susan Ehringaus, Dr. Morrissey, Dr. Deb Bynum, Dr. Alex Duncan.

Samantha Morrissey, MD, PhD, a UNC Med-Peds resident, has been honored with the prestigious Bondurant-Ehringhaus Award for her groundbreaking research conducted at the UNC McAllister Heart Institute under the guidance of Brian Jensen, MD, a professor of medicine in the Division of Cardiology. 

The Bondurant-Ehringhaus Award, named in honor of the late Stuart Bondurant, MD, dean emeritus of the UNC School of Medicine and his wife, Susan Ehringhaus, recognizes Morrissey’s exceptional contributions to medical research and underscores her potential to make significant strides in the field of cardiology as a physician-scientist. She will receive a stipend to support her research on the mechanisms underlying trametinib-induced cardiomyopathy, a potentially life-threatening side effect of certain cancer treatments. 

Morrissey dedicated six consecutive weeks to delve into her research project at Dr. Jensen’s basic science research lab. Building upon her previous expertise in cancer immunology and COVID-19 immune dysregulation, Morriessy collaborated with Dr. Jensen to explore the role of immune cell infiltrate in trametinib-induced cardiomyopathy, an adverse effect observed in approximately 20% of patients undergoing treatment with trametinib or similar MEK inhibitors. 

The project, which involved isolating cardiac leukocytes and employing flow cytometry staining protocols to profile immune cell populations within the heart, yielded unexpected findings. Morriessy and her team discovered that neutrophils were the predominant immune cell population in their trametinib-induced cardiomyopathy model, shedding new light on the involvement of neutrophils in chemotherapy-induced cardiomyopathy and heart failure. 

Morrissey’s research was presented at the AHA Scientific Sessions meeting in Philadelphia in November 2022. The Jensen Lab received a special invitation to contribute a review on neutrophils in cardiomyopathy for the Journal of Leukocyte Biology, slated for publication in Fall 2024.

Going forward from this huge achievement, Morrissey intends to utilize the data from her research as the foundation for her work during her cardiology fellowship. She plans to pursue a F32 grant, to focus on investigating cardiac immune infiltration in heart failure and heart transplant settings. Drawing on her MD/PhD background from the University of Louisville, where she obtained her PhD in Microbiology and Immunology, Morrissey aims to advance the field of cardiology by delving into the mechanisms of cardiac graft rejection and developing targeted immunotherapies to enhance transplant outcomes.