Scientists supported by the new Donald W. Reynolds Cardiovascular Clinical Research Center at Johns Hopkins will aggressively pursue novel biological therapies, including stem cells, to prevent abnormal heart rhythms and sudden death in patients recovering from heart attack. They also will use modern imaging techniques to better define the functional, structural and metabolic features of the heart posing the greatest risk for life-threatening arrhythmias in post-heart attack patients. In addition, they will look to identify genetic and protein-related indicators of sudden cardiac death, and develop new methods to study genetic markers among patients at varying levels of risk for the condition.
The funding also will be used to support cardiovascular research training for fellows and junior faculty.
"Sudden cardiac death is ripe for a biological revolution," says Eduardo Marbn, M.D., Ph.D., director of the new Reynolds Center and professor of medicine. "If we can understand why specific patients have arrhythmias, we can target those patients for intensive therapy while sparing others. Therefore, treatment will become increasingly customized to the patient, based upon knowledge of the individual abnormalities underlying a person's risk for sudden death."
An estimated three to four million Americans with hardening of the arteries currently are candidates for implantable defibrillators, devices that shock the heart back to normal rhythm during electrical misfiring, says Marbn, the Michel Mirowski, M.D., Professor of Cardiology. Yet most patients with the devices will likely never need them, making this widespread treatment "economically impractical," he says.