The American Heart Association (AHA) has awarded Cleveland Clinic a $3.7 million grant for three related research projects aimed at improving patient outcomes through prevention of atrial fibrillation (AF) development and progression.
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The four-year, competitive award will support basic, clinical and translational research by a multidisciplinary team led by electrophysiologist Mina Chung, MD, Director of Cleveland Clinic’s Center of Excellence for Cardiovascular Translational Functional Genomics.
Cleveland Clinic is one of six U.S. institutions selected to receive funding from the AHA’s new $28 million Atrial Fibrillation Strategically Focused Research Network. The Cleveland Clinic site will be named the Sarah Ross Soter Center for Atrial Fibrillation Research.
“Once atrial fibrillation starts, it typically worsens over time, with episodes becoming longer and less likely to cease on their own,” says Dr. Chung. “Despite intense effort, there are few effective and safe therapies for it. With this significant AHA support, we are focusing on developing novel therapies for preventing the development and progression of AF. Our new center will use molecular data to find, choose and personalize targets for preventive therapies.”
The award supports continuation of the work of a Cleveland Clinic team that’s been collaborating for nearly 20 years, publishing more than 40 major papers together and making significant contributions to the understanding of AF mechanisms and cardiac genomics. The following three specific research projects will be funded:
- “Gene-Aging-Metabolism Interaction in AF Pathogenesis,” led by Jonathan Smith, PhD, Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, Cleveland Clinic Lerner Research Institute. This project will build on the team’s previous AF genomics research to identify new molecular pathways that can be targeted with medications. It will explore how aging and metabolism, along with certain identified genes, may work together to cause AF.
- “Targeting Risk Interventions and Metformin for AF,” led by Dr. Chung. This involves a new clinical trial to test the effectiveness of two therapeutic strategies to reduce AF progression. The team will enroll 270 participants with pacemakers and implantable cardioverter-defibrillators to study lifestyle modifications and use of a repurposed diabetes medication, metformin, in reducing AF burden. The research builds on earlier studies suggesting that weight loss and exercise, as well as metformin, are associated with reduced AF risk. The study will include collaborators in cardiac electrophysiology and pacing, preventive cardiology, endocrinology and sleep medicine.
- “Multi-omic Analyses of Atrial Metabolism, Electrophysiology and AF Progression,” a translational population health project led by David Van Wagoner, PhD, of Cleveland Clinic’s Department of Molecular Cardiology, with key collaborator John Barnard, PhD, of the Department of Quantitative Health Sciences. In an effort to develop personalized treatments, the researchers will characterize AF subtypes and identify biological signatures of disease progression to better understand patient-specific responses to various therapies.
“We are very pleased that the AHA selected us to participate in this research consortium to take our work from the lab back to patients’ bedsides to prevent worsening of this disease,” says Dr. Chung. “New therapies for AF are critical, and we are hopeful this award will have an extraordinary impact by leading to improved, personalized therapies for patients with this debilitating condition.”
“This work, coupled with an already robust clinical AF research program — including novel mapping/ablation technologies, among other projects — further cements Cleveland Clinic as a premier research center for cardiac arrhythmias,” notes Daniel Cantillon, MD, Cleveland Clinic’s Research Director for Cardiac Electrophysiology and Pacing.