AHA Announces Strategically Focused Research Network for Vascular Disease


January 16, 2018—The American Heart Association (AHA) recently announced that scientific teams have been selected that will lead a new AHA-funded research network dedicated to vascular disease. These teams will collaborate for 4 years to leverage the strength of basic, clinical, and population research to prevent, treat, and ultimately improve outcomes in vascular disease, specifically peripheral artery disease (PAD) and aortic diseases.

In the announcement, AHA Immediate Past President Steven Houser, PhD, commented, “This newly funded research network, targeting vascular diseases, was created to kick start new thinking on PAD and aortic disease.” Dr. Houser, who participated in the application review process, is Senior Associate Dean of Research, Chairperson of the Department of Physiology, and Director of the Cardiovascular Research Center at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The centers will each receive $3.7 million over the next 4 years from the AHA's Vascular Disease Research Network to conduct the following research:

  • “Understanding Pathobiology and Predictors of Limb Ischemia to Improve Outcomes in PAD and Diabetes” will be conducted by Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, New Hampshire. This research will seek to learn what causes critical limb ischemia (CLI). Investigators will also seek new ways to help identify people at risk by using practical risk tools that could be delivered on a website or phone and personalize the application of intensive medical therapies to the highest-risk patients to reduce the burden of CLI and amputation in patients with diabetes.
  • “Calf Skeletal Muscle Pathology and Disability in PAD” will be conducted by Northwestern University in Chicago, Illinois. Investigators will focus on how blockages in leg arteries damage muscle and how that affects walking, as well as determine if a therapy for leg muscle damage in PAD patients can also improve their ability to walk.
  • The Aortopathy Research Center of the University of Kentucky at Lexington, Kentucky and Baylor College of Medicine at Houston, Texas will focus on aortic diseases in the chest or abdominal area that involve the aneurysms and dissections of the vessel wall. The major aim of this study is to understand what causes sex differences in these conditions in which men have a greater incidence than women, but women have higher risks for bleeding and worse outcomes from surgery.
  • “Microcirculatory Disease Determines Limb Outcomes in PAD” will be conducted at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. This will be an investigation of patients with PAD that uses different methods to understand why the leg's muscle and blood vessels do not work and result in a reduced ability to walk and will try to better understand how a person’s medical history and inherited factors may predict PAD and poor outcomes.

In the AHA press release, Dr. Houser commented, “This work is vitally important because vascular disease is expected to increase as the population ages and as diabetes and obesity become more prevalent. The lives of millions of men and women from all walks of life can benefit. Funding new breakthroughs through this targeted research program can provide more answers, ultimately helping prevent vascular disease or identify it earlier and determine more therapies and best practices to help patients live longer, stronger lives.”

According to the AHA, the Vascular Disease Network is the most recent of several AHA-funded Strategically Focused Research Networks. The others are studying prevention, hypertension, disparities, children’s heart health, heart failure, obesity, and women and heart disease. The AHA will announce a ninth network targeting atrial fibrillation in summer 2018.

Each network is composed of three to five centers, each working on three projects simultaneously that are focused on one strategic area. These networks provide an opportunity to address key strategic issues as determined by the AHA’s Board of Directors. More information about this initiative is available on the AHA website here.


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