Expansion of famous heart studies will advance treatment accuracy, save lives.

A new research collaboration between the American Heart Association (AHA), the University of Mississippi and Boston University, has been created to expand the value of the important population-based Framingham and Jackson heart studies.

It is hoped that through the collaboration, convened by the AHA and temporarily named “Heart Studies v2.0,” these world-renowned studies will get an injection of more research subjects, more diverse subjects, more genetic analysis and new approaches to gathering information. The aim is to find more “personalized” treatment and prevention of heart disease. The project will help build a “biobank” that researchers can easily access through a larger national network of population studies that include Framingham and Jackson.

Framingham is the longest-running U.S. heart study and has led to many important discoveries, including identification of risk factors for heart disease and stroke, and information on the effects of these factors, including blood pressure, smoking, obesity, cholesterol, and physical activity.

The Jackson Heart Study is the largest study ever focused on risk factors among African-Americans – who face disproportionate risk for heart disease and stroke. Among its key findings are particular links between social conditions and specific risk factors for diseases like hypertension. Investigators also have contributed to the map of the human genome, uncovered differences in metabolic syndrome between blacks and whites, and identified how location of fat in the body affects African-Americans – a topic previously characterized mainly in white people.

“The potential here is nothing short of amazing,” said Loscalzo, chairman of the Department of Medicine and Physician-in-Chief at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Editor-in-Chief of the AHA’s journal Circulation. “The vast participant database from these important studies, plus additional genetic components, puts us on the path to defining specific risk determinants for certain cardiovascular diseases for every person.”

In a press release, the AHA gave an example of the results this may one day yield: “Consider a person with high blood pressure. Currently, that person may take medications that have been found to be effective in studies of large groups of people. Heart Studies v2.0 would break those large study groups into smaller, more precisely targeted groups based on how their genes interact with their environment. So the person would be treated sooner with something more personally tailored, eliminating the time lag caused by experimenting with medication – and perhaps saving that person’s life.”

“The simple way to say it is that not everybody with hypertension will respond to a standard therapy or therapeutic strategy based on trials of large populations of patients, where results represent an average response throughout the population,” Loscalzo explained.

“Thanks to the American Heart Association, this collaboration will allow the continued development of the science to better understand the causes of heart disease and stroke. It moves us closer to the day when this leading cause of death can be prevented in more people,” said Dan Jones, M.D., University of Mississippi chancellor and former Jackson Heart Study principal investigator.


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