Date of Award

Spring 2010

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Biomedical Sciences

Committee Director

Barbara Y. Hargrave

Committee Member

Julie A. Kerry

Committee Member

Frank A. Lattanzio

Committee Member

Christopher J. Osgood


Cocaine and ecstasy are widely used illicit drugs. Both drugs have undergone intense scrutiny as information regarding their side-effects has become available. One important yet incomplete area of investigation pertains to their effects on the heart. The purpose of the current studies was to test the hypothesis that exposure to cocaine or ecstasy will adversely affect cellular homeostasis and normal heart function. Cultured cardiac myocytes (H9c2) and New Zealand White rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) were used to measure the responses to various concentrations of cocaine or ecstasy at both the cellular and intact organ system levels. We observed that cocaine and ecstasy significantly altered several homeostatic parameters including reactive oxygen species generation, intracellular calcium balance, NF-κB activity, gene expression, and left ventricular function. We conclude that cocaine and ecstasy are detrimental to the myocardium of the heart, causing several disturbances with pathological potential.