Masonic Medical Research Institute Works Towards Heart Health

Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Source: Daily Sentinel

UTICA — The Masonic Medical Research Institute in Utica is working right in the Mohawk Valley’s backyard to help provide research and a foundation to further the health of others, especially on World Heart Day.

MMRI is an internationally recognized biomedical research institute founded by the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons in the State of New York in 1958. The Institute’s primary mission is to conduct high-quality basic biomedical and clinical research committed to providing education and training to basic scientists, clinical researchers, and students.

World Heart Day is Friday, Sept. 29, and the MMRI has been working for the past few years to further heart health through research.

“The goal of World Heart Day is to promote cardiovascular disease and heart disease awareness for a better heart lifestyle,” said Millie Occhionero, director of marketing and communications. “Here at MMRI, we’re doing a lot of research on cardiovascular health.”

Dr. Maria Kontaridis said historically, the MMRI focused on cardiac arrhythmia. Kontaridis has a Ph.D. and is executive director, director of research/Gordon K. Moe Professor, and Chair of Biomedical Research and Translational Medicine.

“But when I first arrived here at the MMRI five years ago, we expanded the scope of the cardiovascular research and now study everything from children’s genetic heart diseases, obesity-related cardiomyopathy, and end-stage heart failure to name a few,” Kontaridis said.

As of now, Kontaridis said they’re doing work involving Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells, or iPSCs, which are stem cells that have been harvested from skin or blood cells, along with gene therapy to target cardiovascular disease in children. MMRI is also studying long-term COVID-19, seeking to understand why some individuals suffer cardiovascular symptoms after recovering from COVID-19 and developing treatments for it.

To help themselves, Kontaridis encouraged people to listen to their bodies and be aware of where they are health-wise.

“While it’s important to have a good diet and exercise program, you should also reduce stress and recognize the signs and symptoms of heart disease or a heart attack,” she explained. “It can present very differently and not always be that sudden chest pain. Sometimes, it’s just numbness in the arm or feeling sweaty and hot. Recognize if something isn’t right with your body and seek medical attention.”

Those looking to help the MMRI and its mission can do so by visiting and donating.

“Almost every dollar that comes into MMRI is used for research purposes and continues the progress of our work,” Kontaridis said.

MMRI offers a summer fellowship program for high school students or undergraduates, doing research over the course of 10 weeks through summer.

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