UK College of Medicine Postdoc and Superfund Center Trainee Mike Petriello Wins Prestigious NIH Award

Mike Petriello, post-doctoral researcher within UK’s Cardiovascular Research Center, has received the prestigious Pathway to Independence Award (K99/R00) from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This highly competitive career development award offers postdoctoral researchers the opportunity to accelerate their transition to independence. The purpose of the award program is to increase and maintain a strong cohort of new and talented, NIH-supported, independent investigators. The program is designed to facilitate a timely transition of outstanding postdoctoral researchers from mentored, postdoctoral research positions to independent, tenure-track (or equivalent) faculty positions. 

The initial K99 phase will provide Dr. Petriello with up to two years of mentored support where he will be advised by an interactive and collaborative group of established investigators with complementary expertise and interests in analytical chemistry, cardiovascular research, and multivariate statistics.  Dr. Andrew Morris, Director of UK’s Small Molecule Mass Spectrometry Core Laboratory and Director of the UK Superfund Center’s Research Support Core, will act as his primary mentor and will assist in training related to analytical instrumentation.  Dr. Susan Smyth, Director of the Gill Heart & Vascular Institute, and Dr. Rich Charnigo, Professor of Statistics and Biostatistics, will offer strong expertise in cardiovascular medicine and rigorous experimental study design.  Additional mentors and collaborators include Dr. Sudha Biddinger of Boston Children's hospital, Dr. Bernhard Hennig and other faculty of the UK Superfund Research Center, the UK Center for Appalachian Research in Environmental Sciences, and the UK-Resource Center for Stable Isotope-Resolved Metabolomics.  The second phase (R00) will provide three years of independent research support at the R01 level for Petriello to continue his independent research focused on mechanisms linking environmental exposures to atherosclerosis.  

Petriello’s project, “TMAO is a biomarker of dioxin-like pollutant exposure and cardiometabolic disease,” will allow him to study how multiple environmental stressors can interact to impact cardiovascular health.  Specifically, Petriello will investigate how dietary stressors and pollutant chemical exposures can modulate the gut microbiota and liver metabolism to increase the risk of developing cardiometabolic diseases. His research recently showed that exposure to a certain class of persistent pollutants called dioxins may increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, and this risk may be increased depending on one’s dietary choices. 

Petriello completed his doctoral degree under the guidance of Dr. Bernhard Hennig, Director of the UK Superfund Research Center (UK SRC) in 2015 and since has been supported by the Clinical Scholars in Cardiovascular Science T32 led by Dr. Smyth.  Petriello continues to be closely affiliated with the UK SRC as well as the new NIEHS funded P30 Environmental Health Sciences Core Center (UK-CARES) led by Dr. Xianglin Shi.  Passionate about science and committed to research, he also finds time to do the things he enjoys such as hiking with his family, visiting as many local breweries as possible, and rooting for his favorite Pennsylvania sports teams.  Petriello and his wife Stephanie live in Lexington with their daughter Annabelle, age 1, and two dogs, Duke and Penny.