How a Louis L’Amour Book about the Southwest Inspired a HCM Discovery

When Stanford biochemist Jim Spudich settled down in bed with a book recommended by his wife, he had no idea that the book would inspire one of the biggest discoveries of his career. Spudich drifted off to sleep while reading The Haunted Mesa, a science fiction novel by Louis L’Amour. His scientific discovery was based on an image he saw in his dreams when the image of a mesa morphed into a myosin molecule.

Myosins are proteins that make the contraction of heart muscle possible. In hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, these proteins work too well, causing a heartbeat that is too strong.

The mesa in the book inspired Spudich to look at the head of the myosin. His previous research had focused on random locations along the entire length of the myosin.

Spudich’s groundbreaking work ultimately led to current clinical trials of the drug mavacamten which is being developed by the San Francisco biotech company MyoKardia.

This article tells the whole story of the beginnings of this groundbreaking research.