A $2.7 million grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute will fund a study to discover the mechanisms that contribute to atrial fibrillation, a leading cause of stroke. Atrial fibrillation (AFib) is the most common cause of heart arrhythmia, affecting an estimated 2.7 to six million people in the United States. It occurs when the heart beats too slowly, too fast, or irregularly. When the upper chambers of the heart beat irregularly, blood doesn’t flow properly from the atria to the lower chambers of the heart. AFib is increasingly prevalent in the United States because the aging population has predisposing conditions such as heart failure, obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure.
Although there have been technological advances in the treatment of atrial fibrillation, current therapies are often ineffective and can have significant side effects. These treatments are insufficient due to a limited understanding of the mechanisms that drive and maintain the condition.
The ultimate goal of the new study is to develop personalized therapies that successfully define, target and treat the sources of atrial fibrillation in the human heart. To do this, researchers will need reliable, detailed maps of the course of fast electrical activity during atrial fibrillation. This is made more challenging because of the complexity of the patient-specific, 3-D structure of the human atria. Because such maps don’t exist, researchers debate what mechanisms drive AFib, their cause, and how best to locate and treat these patient-specific drivers in patients with cardiac diseases.
Principal investigator for the AFib grant is Vadim Fedorov, PhD, associate professor in the Ohio State College of Medicine Department of Physiology and Cell Biology. Like medical “detectives,” he and his team aim to develop a novel, paradigm-shifting framework that clearly identifies the exact electro-anatomical AFib driver “fingerprints” for optimal AFib treatment in humans.
Co-investigators are Brandon Biesiadecki, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Physiology and Cell Biology; John Hummel, MD, clinical professor in the Ohio State Division of Cardiovascular Medicine; Paul Janssen, PhD, professor in the Department of Physiology and Cell Biology; and Orlando Simonetti, PhD, professor in the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine.