DALLAS, Dec. , 2019 – The American Heart Association — the world’s leading voluntary organization dedicated to a world of longer, healthier lives — announced today more than $14 million in research grants are being awarded to four scientific teams to...


Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Johns Hopkins University, New York University and University of Iowa leading novel studies as part of the American Heart Association’s newest Strategically Focused Research Network

DALLAS, Dec. 13, 2019 – The American Heart Association — the world’s leading voluntary organization dedicated to a world of longer, healthier lives — announced today more than $14 million in research grants are being awarded to four scientific teams  to create the Association’s new Strategically Focused Research Network on Cardiometabolic Health and Type 2 Diabetes. These teams will focus on innovative breakthrough science designed to better understand conditions that include risk factors related to heart disease and stroke and type 2 diabetes and will hopefully lead to more effective ways to prevent and treat these deadly conditions.

Cardiometabolic disorders include high blood pressure, elevated fasting blood sugar, high cholesterol, abdominal obesity and elevated triglycerides. Understanding and treating these conditions is especially important for people with type 2 diabetes (T2D) who are at increased risk of developing and dying of heart disease or stroke. More than 27 million Americans live with type 2 diabetes, according to the American Heart Association’s 2019 Statistics Update.

Research teams at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Johns Hopkins University, New York University and the University of Iowa will receive more than $3.5 million each through this American Heart Association’s Strategically Focused Research Network grant initiative. They will form a national collaboration of scientists focused on studies to address questions about cardiometabolic health with a focus on type 2 diabetes.

“The intent of this initiative is to support a collaboration of basic, clinical and population researchers from different disciplines whose collective efforts can lead to better understanding of the modifiable risk factors and ultimately bring pioneering new approaches to prevent and treat diabetes and the related cardiometabolic health disorders,” said American Heart Association volunteer David Van Wagoner, Ph.D., a research scientist at the Cleveland Clinic, Ohio, and a member of the Association’s peer review team for the selection of the new grant recipients. “Over the next four years, we’ll have some of the most creative minds in cardiovascular research focused on this work to ultimately improve patient outcomes and save lives from heart disease and stroke.”

The projects, which will commence on January 1, include:

  • Strategies to Understand Pathology, Predictors and Pharmacotherapy to Reduce Adverse Cardiovascular Outcomes in T2DM (SUPER-CVDM) at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. Led by Mark Feinberg, M.D., a cardiovascular specialist at Brigham and Women’s, this team will look at why people with diabetes are more likely to have plaque build-up in their arteries and the complications that come with it such as heart attacks and heart failure. Some of the team’s research will focus on African Americans, a population that is especially high-risk for cardiovascular complications. The research center will include three projects at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Boston University School of Medicine that will work collaboratively to understand mechanisms that cause disease, define predictors, evaluate therapies and ultimately identify the populations at highest risk and patients who gain the greatest benefit from therapy.
  • The Importance of Adipokines in Mediating the Relationship of Obesity with Cardiometabolic Disease: Implications for Heart Failure at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. Led by co-directors Chiadi Ndumele, M.D., Ph.D., an assistant professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins and Rexford Ahima, M.D., Ph.D., the director of the division of endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism and a professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins, the team will try to understand why some people develop risk factors in obesity, like high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol and diabetes, and some do not. They will test the role of adipokines, proteins produced by fat cells, in disease development and also examine how heart function becomes poor in individuals who develop risk factors linked to obesity. They’ll further investigate whether heart injury can improve with weight loss through bariatric surgery and if those improvements are caused by improvements in adipokines and risk factors linked to obesity.
  • Diabetes and Vascular Disease Repair in Women and Men (REPAIR) at New York University in New York City. Led by Ira Goldberg, M.D., the chief of NYU’s division of endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism, this team will investigate why people with diabetes don’t appear to fully benefit from cholesterol-lowering drugs. To better understand this phenomenon, researchers will conduct three synergistic projects linking animal experiments, human pathology and circulating cells with disease outcome, all specifically studying health disparity due to sex. They hope their work can provide new clues to cure heart disease in diabetes and to particularly help explain why women are disproportionately affected.
  • A Heart-Liver-Adipose Axis: The Role of Inter-organ Crosstalk in Cardiometabolic Risk at the University of Iowa in Iowa City. Led by Dale Abel, M.D., Ph.D., chair and department executive officer of the department of internal medicine at the University of Iowa, this team will use advanced technology to focus on adipose (fatty) tissue and the liver as important factors in controlling metabolism and cardiovascular risks. Using tissue-on-chip methodology that positions cells in a three-dimensional structure to mimic the function of  body organs, the researchers will study different types of fat from people before and after bariatric surgery to determine if molecules within the fat directly damage heart or liver tissue. This work represents a collaborative effort bringing together cardiovascular investigators at the University of Iowa, the Massachusetts General Hospital, the University of Massachusetts and the University of Michigan.

“We’re excited that the American Heart Association can support projects that feature such original, comprehensive and collaborative research plans. This work can ultimately have an extraordinary impact on cardiovascular disease and stroke outcomes,” said Van Wagoner.

With the launch of this new Network, the American Heart Association has now invested more than $180 million to establish 11 Strategically Focused Research Networks, providing an opportunity to address key strategic issues that were identified by the Association’s Board of Directors, including: Prevention; Hypertension; Disparities; Women’s Health; Heart Failure; Obesity; Children; Vascular Disease; Atrial Fibrillation; and Arrhythmias and Sudden Cardiac Death. Each Network centers around the understanding, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of the key research topic. Four to six Research Centers make up each Network, bringing together investigators with expertise in basic, clinical and population/behavioral health science to find new ways to diagnose, treat and prevent heart disease and stroke. More Strategically Focused Research Networks will be forthcoming in 2020 and beyond.

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