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Northwestern Medicine Receives Grant to Lead Research into Atrial Fibrillation and Stroke

One of six research sites nationwide selected by the American Heart Association

CHICAGO – The American Heart Association recently selected Northwestern Medicine as one of six centers to be part of a new, grant-funded national network dedicated to researching and understanding the causes of atrial fibrillation, the most common type of irregular heartbeat.

At Northwestern, a $3.7 million grant will fund research specifically on how atrial fibrillation develops and how it causes stroke, the leading cause of serious, long-term disability in the United States. The new knowledge base this network discovers is expected to provide a basis to generate more effective ways to treat and prevent atrial fibrillation.

“Our selection by the American Heart Association is a testament to the depth and breadth of the expertise, infrastructure and collaborative spirit present at Northwestern Medicine Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute,” said Rod Passman, MD, MSCE, a cardiac electrophysiologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and a professor of medicine (cardiology) and preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “We anticipate this award will allow Northwestern to continue its leadership role in atrial fibrillation research and facilitate further contributions to the prevention and treatment of this disease.”

Dr. Passman will serve as the center director at Northwestern for the Atrial Fibrillation Strategically Focused Research Network.

“The work to be led by Dr. Passman here at Northwestern is of major importance as it addresses a true compelling need within the scope of heart disease,” said Clyde W. Yancy, MD, MSc, vice dean, diversity & inclusion, Magerstadt Professor of Medicine, and chief, division of cardiology at the Feinberg School of Medicine. “As well, this award now aligns with four other similar American Heart Association Strategically Focused Research Networks and positions Northwestern in unprecedented territory as the holder of five strategically focused research networks representing an aggregate research investment by the American Heart Association in Northwestern of over $15 million. With these resources we intend to change the trajectory of heart disease in this country.”

Atrial fibrillation occurs when the heart’s upper chamber beats out of synch with the lower chamber. Symptoms include palpitations, shortness of breath and fatigue, but for many with atrial fibrillation few if any symptoms are experienced. As one of the leading causes of stroke, atrial fibrillation represents an important public health challenge. An estimated 6.1 million or more Americans were living with AFib as of 2010, making it the most common heart abnormality in the United States, according to the American Heart Association. That number is expected to rise to 12.1 million by 2030.

“Establishing these centers with leading investigators from renowned institutions is an important step in discovering biological, genetic and behavioral connections affecting the occurrence and impact of atrial fibrillation and stroke related to this common arrhythmia,” said American Heart Association Chief Science Officer Rose Marie Robertson. “Bringing together the best science while empowering patients to be active participants in their own care should significantly improve the quality of life for those who suffer from atrial fibrillation.”

In its entirety, the Atrial Fibrillation Strategically Focused Research Network will allow the American Heart Association to enhance the understanding of the causes, biology, pathophysiology and epidemiology of atrial fibrillation with a goal to improve patient outcomes.

The Northwestern Medicine Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute is part of the Northwestern Medicine health system, with multiple sites of care in Chicago and the region. Northwestern Medicine is the shared strategic vision of Northwestern Memorial HealthCare and Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

For more information, or to make an appointment with a cardiovascular specialist, call (312) NM-HEART or visit heart.nm.org.

To learn more about Northwestern Medicine, visit http://news.nm.org/about-northwestern-medicine.html.

The American Heart Association is devoted to saving people from heart disease and stroke – two of the leading causes of death in the world. We team with millions of volunteers to fund innovative research, fight for stronger public health policies, and provide lifesaving tools and information to prevent and treat these diseases. The Dallas-based association is one of the world’s oldest and largest voluntary organizations dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke. To learn more or to get involved, visit heart.org or call any of the group’s offices around the country.