AHA awards $14M in grants for diabetes research

The American Heart Association on Dec. 13 announced that it would be awarding more than $14 million in research grants to advance its new Strategically Focused Research Network on Cardiometabolic Health and Type 2 Diabetes.

According to a release from the AHA, 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 the grant initiative, which is focused on “innovative breakthrough science designed to better understand conditions that include risk factors related to heart disease and stroke and type 2 diabetes.” According to the organization’s latest 2019 statistics, some 27 million Americans are living with 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,” AHA volunteer David Van Wagoner, PhD, a research scientist at the Cleveland Clinic, said in the release. “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 Boston-based Brigham and Women’s study will be led by Mark Feinberg, MD, a CV specialist at the institution, and will look into why people with diabetes are more likely to have plaque buildup in their arteries. Three separate projects will work to understand mechanisms that cause disease, define predictors and evaluate therapies, and some of the research will focus specifically on black patients, who are at an especially high risk for CVD.

Chiadi Ndumele, MD, PhD, and Rexford Ahima, MD, PhD, will co-lead an effort at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore that will aim to understand why some people develop risk factors in obesity while others don’t. The team will hone in on the role of adipokines in disease development and investigate whether CV injuries can improve with weight loss through bariatric surgery.

At NYU, Ira Goldberg, MD, will spearhead a team of researchers who will investigate why people with diabetes don’t fully benefit from cholesterol-lowering drugs. The team plans on conducting three synergistic projects linking animal experiments, human pathology and circulating cells with disease outcomes.

The University of Iowa in Iowa City will undertake a study of advanced technology to focus on adipose tissue and the liver as key factors in controlling metabolism and cardiovascular risks. Dale Abel, MD, PhD, and colleagues will use tissue-on-a-chip technology to study different types of fat in patients before and after bariatric surgery.

With the launch of its newest network, the AHA will have invested more than $180 million into establishing 11 strategically focused research networks. The projects mentioned above will begin Jan. 1.

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