“Curiosity In Science Is A Strength” – Kah Yong Goh, UAB Ph.D. Student and emerging ASIP Next Gen Researcher Spotlight

20170424_101002_004“Never be afraid of failure because failure is a part of success”

Kah Yong Goh studies the role of mitochondria within the heart and is charting his own path to an exciting independent career in biomedical research. Originally from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Kah Yong came to the United States over ten years ago to pursue higher education at St. Cloud State University in St. Cloud Minnesota. After graduating from college, he worked as a research technician at the University of Iowa for two years, within an immunology lab. During this time his interest in becoming an independent investigator was sparked.

“Opportunities are everywhere you just have to look for them and change your view of failure”

Kah Yong studies a therapeutic compound known as Mitoquinone (MitoQ), a potent antioxidant drug used in a variety of health applications. Antioxidants are compounds that inhibit oxidation, a process whereby an over exposure to oxygen can lead to negative effects. A common example of this is when cheese or butter is left out for too long; this results in these food items becoming rancid, due to over exposure to atmospheric oxygen.

Under normal conditions, mitochondria (energy producing organelles within a cell), produce a basal level of oxygen molecules (free radicals) that act as signals for optimal cellular function. However, in the context of cardiovascular disease, mitochondria become dysfunctional and produce excessive amounts of free radicals. If this process is not kept under control, neighboring tissue and cells can become damaged as high levels of mitochondrial free radicals activate pathways capable of inducing cell death. MitoQ works by scavenging or diminishing the potency of free radicals, thereby reducing the harmful effects they cause.  What makes MitoQ unique from other antioxidants is that it specifically targets the mitochondria and repeatedly shows efficacy in treating mitochondrial-related diseases.

“The career development opportunities at the 2017 ASIP Annual meeting were very encouraging for me, and the personal interaction was really good. Hearing of others’ struggles was really nice. It made me realize that the difference between established investigators and myself was not very different, that I can achieve the same things they have.”

Kah Yong’s research investigates the use of MitoQ to improve heart function and oxidative stress in the context of heart failure. Using 8-week old mice as his experimental model, Kah Yong utilized aortic constriction as a method to induce heart failure and then treated mice with MitoQ to examine if the antioxidant would improve heart function. Following one week of MitoQ treatment, heart fractional shortening (a measure of the heart’s muscular contractility) and ejection fraction (measurement of the percentage of blood leaving your heart each time it contracts) were improved as well as collagen deposition (i.e. wound scaring). Together, Kah Yong’s findings suggest that MitoQ treatment may represent an effective strategy to treat pressure overload-induced heart failure in preclinical mouse models.

Kah Yong’s future plans are to continue doing research within an academic or industrial setting and he is constantly driven by the tenacity to never give up.

Author: Bryan A. Wilson, Ph.D., M.B.A. – Research Fellow (UNC Chapel Hill School of Medicine)

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