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NIH grants $6.78 million to study progression of heart disease

Houston, TX - 12/27/2010

Researchers at the Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center in Houston were recently awarded a $6.78 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to extend a 23-year-old large-scale, community-based study of heart disease.

"The ARIC study helps us understand how heart disease develops and progresses so that we can design therapies that will prevent or stop the progression of America’s most deadly disease," said Dr. Christie Ballantyne, director of the Center for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention at Methodist and Baylor College of Medicine. "Given the unprecedented level of information drawn through this study, we are able to accurately determine unique ways heart disease develops and progresses in different age groups, genders, races and communities across time."

This information opens the doors to tailoring diagnostic tests and treatments in a more accurate and personalized way, added Ballantyne, who is also a member of the steering committee for the study.

ARIC, which stands for Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities, has closely monitored more than 15,000 people for cardiovascular disease, hospitalization and mortality from heart attack, or myocardial infarction (MI) and heart failure, for the past 23 years. The new grant funds another visit and extends the program, which will continue until December 31, 2014, a total of 28 years.

The ARIC project has provided medicine with great insights into the development of heart disease. More than 750 articles have been published in peer-reviewed journals based on ARIC data.

A major objective of the ARIC renewal is to identify and characterize novel genetic and biochemical risk factors for cardiovascular disease using modern molecular, cellular and metabolic approaches. Eric Boerwinkle, PhD, at the University of Texas School of Public Health, is head of the DNA lab and a co-investigator on the grant.

"In addition to clinical data and imaging tests, we have a wealth of data on new biomarkers and genetic information that we could not have even imagined in 1987. The large size of the study and extensive follow up helps us better predict who will develop heart disease or stroke, and who will have a recurrent event," Ballantyne said. "Our goal is to apply this knowledge to develop better strategies for both prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease in a more personalized manner."

About ARIC*
The Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study (ARIC), sponsored by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), is a prospective epidemiologic study conducted in four U.S. communities. ARIC is designed to investigate the etiology and natural history of atherosclerosis, the etiology of clinical atherosclerotic diseases, and variation in cardiovascular risk factors, medical care and disease by race, gender, location and date.

ARIC includes two parts: the Cohort Component and the Community Surveillance Component. The Cohort Component began in 1987, and each ARIC field center randomly selected and recruited a cohort sample of approximately 4,000 individuals aged 45-64 from a defined population in their community. A total of 15,792 participants received an extensive examination, including medical, social, and demographic data. These participants were reexamined every three years with the first screen (baseline) occurring in 1987-89, the second in 1990-92, the third in 1993-95, and the fourth exam was in 1996-98 and a new exam will be conducted beginning in 2011. Follow-up occurs yearly by telephone to maintain contact with participants and to assess health status of the cohort.

In the Community Surveillance Component, currently ongoing, these four communities are investigated to determine the community-wide occurrence of hospitalized myocardial infarction and coronary heart disease deaths in men and women aged 35-84 years. Hospitalized stroke is investigated in cohort participants only. The study conducts community surveillance of inpatient heart failure (ages 55 years and older) and cohort surveillance outpatient heart failure events beginning in 2005.

The extension enables ARIC to continue to address long-term community trends in cardiovascular disease and to make use of its valuable cohort to address new questions on the etiology and outcomes of cardiovascular disease.

The Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center

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*Source: www.cscc.unc.edu/aric