Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine has been selected to join a new research network funded by the American Heart Association (AHA) to promote cardiovascular health and prevent death from heart disease and strokes.
As part of the AHA’s Strategically Focused Prevention Research Network Centers, Feinberg’s center within the Department of Preventive Medicine will focus on the maintenance and promotion of cardiovascular health from childhood to middle age. The AHA has awarded the center a four-year $3.7 million grant for this work.
“We are extremely excited to be selected as part of this network, to leverage this partnership with the AHA and the other centers to bridge critical gaps in our knowledge about the life course of cardiovascular health and to improve the cardiovascular health of all Americans,” said new center director Philip Greenland, MD, Harry W. Dingman Professor of Cardiology and director of the Center for Population Health Sciences.
The network also includes three other universities: Vanderbilt School of Medicine, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York and University of Texas-Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.
“The intent is to create a network that will address prevention issues, train new scientists and create synergies across these four institutions to drive forward cardiovascular health promotion and disease prevention,” said Donald Lloyd-Jones, MD, ScM, senior associate dean for Clinical and Translational Research, chair of the Department of Preventive Medicine, and steering committee chair of the center.
Northwestern Medicine scientists will conduct three projects through the center:
Norrina Allen, PhD, MPH, ’11 GME, assistant professor in Preventive Medicine-Epidemiology, will map the trajectories of cardiovascular health from ages 8 to 50. She will examine how people lose, maintain and gain cardiovascular health across those ages by pooling data from several existing large studies.
Bonnie Spring, PhD, director of the Center for Behavior and Health and professor in Preventive Medicine-Behavioral Medicine, will use social network and smartphone technologies to help Northwestern University freshmen preserve their cardiovascular health in a clinical trial.
Lifang Hou, MD, PhD, associate professor in Preventive Medicine-Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention, will examine methylation, a process that enhances or downgrades gene expression. She will see how environments and behaviors – exposure to pollution, smoking, bad diets – change people’s methylation patterns and drive the development of cardiovascular disease.
Meanwhile, Mercedes Carnethon, PhD, associate professor in Preventive Medicine-Epidemiology, will oversee a training program within the center to educate postdoctoral fellows in prevention science.
“We’re focusing on primordial prevention – preventing the development of risk factors in the first place,” said Dr. Lloyd-Jones. “That’s the real key to preventing cardiovascular disease across the lifespan.”