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.
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.”