National Institutes of Health Awards Cleveland Clinic $14.2 Million Grant to Develop New Treatments for Atrial Fibrillation

Researchers aim to use genomic findings to identify novel therapeutics

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Cleveland Clinic has been awarded a $14.2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health for atrial fibrillation research. The five-year award will support four synergistic projects aimed at improving and finding new treatments for patients with atrial fibrillation, the most common heart rhythm abnormality.

Mina Chung, M.D.

Led by Mina Chung, M.D., a multidisciplinary team will focus on translating genomic findings to develop new therapeutic strategies for preventing and treating atrial fibrillation.

There are more than 6 million people in the U.S. living with atrial fibrillation, an irregular rhythm in the heart’s upper chambers. That number is expected to rise to 12.1 million by 2030. When untreated, atrial fibrillation doubles the risk of heart-related death and increases the chance of a stroke fivefold.

“There is a significant need for new treatments for atrial fibrillation as there have been no new drugs approved in more than 10 years,” said Dr. Chung, who is in Cleveland Clinic’s Department of Cardiovascular Medicine in the Heart, Vascular and Thoracic Institute and the Department of Cardiovascular and Metabolic Sciences in the Lerner Research Institute. “This grant will help us translate genomic discoveries in the lab to novel therapeutics for patients.”

The researchers aim to identify genomic and molecular mechanisms underlying atrial fibrillation to better understand the physiologic processes associated with development of the disease and its progression. The highly integrated projects will identify causal genes associated with atrial fibrillation and investigate disease mechanisms to find therapeutic targets and identify potential new drugs.

“Cleveland Clinic has a strong legacy of innovations for heart and vascular diseases,” said Serpil Erzurum, M.D., Chief Research and Academic Officer, Cleveland Clinic. “This award has a highly novel and translational approach to find solutions for our patients, building on our culture of teamwork in research that accelerates our discovery.”

As part of the project, researchers will leverage biorepository samples, engineered heart tissues, and experimental models of spontaneous atrial fibrillation to examine the role of common genetic variants, obesity, diet and the gut microbiome. They also will use novel artificial intelligence-based algorithms to find and test existing drugs that can be repurposed for atrial fibrillation and develop a pipeline for testing these drugs.

The team, which includes specialists from Cleveland Clinic’s Heart, Vascular and Thoracic Institute and Lerner Research Institute, has been working collaboratively for nearly 20 years and published more than 40 major papers together, making significant contributions to the field of atrial fibrillation mechanisms and cardiac genomics.

“This generous grant from the NIH will extend our ability to analyze our extensive cardiac biorepository and will also hopefully lead to new treatments for all patients who develop atrial fibrillation,” said Lars G. Svensson, M.D., Ph.D., Chair of the Heart, Vascular and Thoracic Institute. “We congratulate Dr. Chung and all of the members involved in the project. Our Electrophysiology section led by Oussama Wazni, M.D., is one of the most advanced in this field and we believe this is going to be a successful collaboration between the Heart, Vascular and Thoracic Institute and the Lerner Research Institute.”

Dr. Chung’s co-investigators include Jonathan Smith, Ph.D.; David Van Wagoner, Ph.D.; Sarah Schumacher-Bass, Ph.D.; and Sathyamangla Prasad, Ph.D., of the Department of Cardiovascular and Metabolic Sciences; John Barnard, Ph.D., of the Department of Quantitative Health Sciences; Feixiong Cheng, Ph.D., of the Genomic Medicine Institute, Robert Koeth, M.D., Ph.D. of the Departments of Cardiovascular and Metabolic Sciences and Cardiovascular Medicine, and Kenneth Laurita, Ph.D., of MetroHealth Medical Center and Case Western Reserve University.

“Our multidisciplinary team will leverage Cleveland Clinic’s robust research infrastructure to bring genomic findings to the patient bedside,” said Dr. Chung. “We anticipate this project will benefit from a new era of drug discovery to help our patients with atrial fibrillation.”

 

About Cleveland Clinic

Cleveland Clinic is a nonprofit multispecialty academic medical center that integrates clinical and hospital care with research and education. Located in Cleveland, Ohio, it was founded in 1921 by four renowned physicians with a vision of providing outstanding patient care based upon the principles of cooperation, compassion and innovation. Cleveland Clinic has pioneered many medical breakthroughs, including coronary artery bypass surgery and the first face transplant in the United States. U.S. News & World Report consistently names Cleveland Clinic as one of the nation’s best hospitals in its annual “America’s Best Hospitals” survey. Among Cleveland Clinic’s 72,500 employees worldwide are more than 5,050 salaried physicians and researchers, and 17,800 registered nurses and advanced practice providers, representing 140 medical specialties and subspecialties. Cleveland Clinic is a 6,500-bed health system that includes a 173-acre main campus near downtown Cleveland, 21 hospitals, more than 220 outpatient facilities, including locations in northeast Ohio; southeast Florida; Las Vegas, Nevada; Toronto, Canada; Abu Dhabi, UAE; and London, England. In 2021, there were 10.2 million total outpatient visits, 304,000 hospital admissions and observations, and 259,000 surgical cases throughout Cleveland Clinic’s health system. Patients came for treatment from every state and 185 countries. Visit us at clevelandclinic.org. Follow us at twitter.com/ClevelandClinic. News and resources available at newsroom.clevelandclinic.org.

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