AHA awards $14M in grants to study arrhythmias, cardiac arrest

Four universities were awarded research grants by the American Heart Association on June 24, each set to receive more than $3.7 million for a range of studies focused on arrhythmias and sudden cardiac arrest.

In a statement, the AHA said it was focusing on arrhythmia research because more than 350,000 out-of-hospital sudden cardiac arrests occur each year in the U.S. and, without CPR, the death rate for those patients is 90%. The four grants, totaling $14 million, will explore different aspects of the field.

A team at Northwestern University in Chicago will study the genetic risks of sudden cardiac death, including rare genetic variants that haven’t been considered in past risk assessment scores. The goal is to develop a new tool that would help identify patients at the highest risk for sudden cardiac arrest and educate physicians and nurses about how genetics play into cardiac arrest.

In Ann Arbor, Mich., researchers at the University of Michigan will be developing a host of therapies aimed at improving cardiac arrest survival, including a nasal spray that would protect the brain during an event. The third team, at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn., will use basic science to identify potential treatments for ventricular arrhythmias.

Like their peers at Northwestern, the final team, out of the University of Washington in Seattle, will leverage genomics to study sex differences in victims of cardiac arrest. The precision medicine approach is expected to improve risk stratification for cardiac arrest among high-risk populations and improve sex-specific resuscitation strategies.

“The intent of this initiative is to support a collaboration of basic, clinical and population researchers from different disciplines whose collective efforts will lead to new approaches to study arrhythmias and sudden cardiac death,” David Van Wagoner, PhD, an arrhythmia research scientist at the Cleveland Clinic and the leader of the AHA’s peer review team for grant selections, said in the statement. “Over the next four years, we’ll have some of the most creative minds in cardiovascular research focused on solving the critical challenge of how to save more people from experiencing dangerous arrhythmias and dying of sudden cardiac arrest.”