Annahita Sarcon, a fourth-year medical student at UC Davis, received a 2012 ThinkSwiss Research Scholarship to study takotsubo cardiomyopathy at the University Hospital Zurich, one of the largest teaching hospitals in Europe. She is one of 20 students from throughout the United States selected for the program.
ThinkSwiss is an official program of the Swiss Confederation that promotes exchanges and the sharing of knowledge between the U.S. and Switzerland. The program offers research scholarships and travel grants for stays at summer schools at top Swiss universities.
At the University Hospital Zurich, Sarcon is studying takotsubo cardiomyopathy, a disorder thought to affect 2.5 percent of patients seeking treatment for a heart attack worldwide. While blood flow in coronary arteries is not blocked, the flow is reduced, and a part of the heart temporarily enlarges and may not pump well. First described in Japan in 1991, the condition gets its name from characteristic change in the shape of the heart that occurs during the stress, which resembles an octopus pot, or tako-tsubo. The condition, also known as broken heart syndrome, is treatable, with normal heart function typically being restored in a week.
Sarcon is interested in identifying the specific biological markers and risk factors associated with this condition, which could lead to a new diagnostic test to rule out heart attack."I wanted to pursue clinical and research experience in Switzerland for several reasons, one being that Switzerland has one of the world's most advanced health care systems," said Sarcone. "I would like to thank the Swiss Embassy for providing me with this incredible opportunity and the team of researchers and physicians in Zurich, specially my mentor Dr. Christian Templin and Dr. Thomas Luscher at University Hospital Zurich, who supported my ideas."I plan to continue future collaborations between UC Davis Medical Center and Zurich University when I return to UC Davis," she said.