Research Programs

Overview

The Section of Cardiology is involved in a wide range of basic, translational and clinical research programs that span all of the cardiovascular sub-specialty areas. The overall goal of cardiovascular research is to advance knowledge of the mechanisms, diagnoses, and treatments of cardiovascular disease. The faculty conducts research in our basic science laboratories, clinical Laboratories and the clinical facilities. The basic research programs address such areas as cardiac development, cardiac myocyte function, and genetic factors leading to cardiomyopathy, endothelial function, ion channels and receptors and lipid abnormalities.

The clinical research programs compliment these areas by providing clinical research programs in:

  • congestive heart failure and transplantation
  • electrophysiology
  • interventional cardiology
  • cardiac imaging
  • preventative cardiology

These and other programs provide a unique collaborative environment between the various sub-specialties in cardiology. In addition, the Section works closely with other specialties within the Department of Medicine and other Departments in collaborative programs. These Departments include Cardiothoracic Surgery, Endocrinology, Pathology, and Molecular Medicine.

Basic Research

The Section of Cardiology at The University of Chicago has a rich tradition in basic cardiovascular research. For over three decades, the Section of Cardiology has been a national and international leader in uncovering basic mechanisms of cardiovascular function and diseases. Areas of expertise within our group include:

  • heart and vascular development
  • mechanisms of cardiac arrhythmias
  • disorders of blood lipids
  • mechanisms of cardiomyopathy and heart failure
  • mechanisms of vascular spasm
  • regenerative medicine and stem cell biology
  • vascular biology

Basic cardiovascular research in the Section of Cardiology is supported by substantial extramural funding from the National Institutes of Health. The Section also receives support from the American Heart Association and other private foundations such as the Muscular Dystrophy Association, the Schweppe Foundation and the Burroughs Wellcome Fund.

Basic Research Faculty and their Interests:

  • Dr. James Liao is conducting research on role of statins in stroke and atherosclerosis specifically the signaling pathways that govern vascular function, in both normal and diseased states
  • Dr. Marion Hofmann-Bowman  is conducting  research focused on blood vessel inflammation mediated by the activation of the receptor for advanced glycation endproducts (RAGE) by pro-inflammatory S100 proteins

Clinical Research

All aspects of cardiovascular medicine are being actively investigated by the Section. The comprehensive research is conducted in clinical areas including the outpatient and inpatient services, as well as the various subspecialty laboratory areas. The research efforts are focused on specific areas within cardiology, and the research effort is supported by study nurses and coordinators.

The Preventive Cardiology programs include the early detection of cardiovascular disease in high risk individuals, detection of novel lipid abnormalities, the use of new lipid lowering agents and the role of cardiac rehabilitation.

The Heart Failure/Transplant team is actively involved in participating in various studies for heart failure and heart transplant ranging from acute decompensated heart failure, to amyloidosis of the heart, new device technologies, as well as, new avenues for detecting transplant rejection. Examples of heart failure trials include the use of investigational drugs for patients who present to the hospital with acute decompensated heart failure and/or acute decompensated heart failure with renal insufficiency. Innovative studies involving collaboration with the interventional lab and the electrophysiology lab include investigation of new device technologies to continuously monitor heart pressures for better management of heart failure on an out-patient basis. In regard to the transplant population, new ways of determining heart transplant rejection are being performed utilizing gene expression profiling.

The Interventional Laboratory team is energetically involved with the investigation of coronary artery disease and peripheral vascular disease, as well as, cardiac defect closure devices. Examples of trials for CAD include the investigation of new anti-coagulant drugs to prevent blood clots and/or restenosis of diseased heart vessels, in addition to a trial which investigates the use of a new drug eluding stent for CAD. With various types and degrees of peripheral artery disease, investigations utilizing the use of stenting the renal artery, which has some form of occlusion, are being pursued; as well as, new drug therapy for peripheral artery disease already undergoing the use of standard of care treatment. In conjunction with the Electrophysiology team, the lab is participating in a device trial that helps in the prevention of blood clot complications for patients with atrial fibrillation who currently takes warfarin. New technologies known as intra-vascular ultra sound (IVUS) have provided the opportunity for better visualization of the inside of the coronary arteries which has led the interventional physicians to perform individual studies utilizing this technology.

For two decades, the Echocardiography Laboratory has been a leader in the development of new imaging techniques to improve the assessment of left ventricular function and myocardial perfusion. Since 2002, when the laboratory was one of only three centers in the country to perform clinical testing of the first real-time three-dimensional echocardiography device, this group of physicians and researchers has become one of the most prominent national and international leaders in defining the clinical applications of this new technology. With the recent creation of the Cardiac Imaging Center, the group has expanded its activities into the newer imaging modalities, including cardiac magnetic resonance (MRI) and computed tomography (CT), and is currently building clinical and research programs for these modalities.

The Clinical Cardiac Electrophysiology program is actively involved in several areas of investigation in the field of heart rhythm disorders. Ongoing clinical trials in the area of implantable cardiac rhythm management devices include the development of a totally subcutaneous implantable defibrillator to prevent sudden cardiac death, cardiac resynchronization pacing therapy for patients with mild to moderate heart failure, the value of remote monitoring of devices for patients with heart failure, novel coronary sinus pacing leads, and optimization of programmable pacing intervals. Examples of catheter ablation trials include the investigation of alternative ablation tools such as cryoenergy, irrigated ablation electrodes, and investigational bipolar ablation catheters to ablate permanent atrial fibrillation. The group is also studying the use of imaging modalities in the EP laboratory including fiberoptic infrared imaging and intracardiac echocardiography. Novel therapies for patients with atrial fibrillation that are being evaluated include new direct thrombin inhibitors to prevent stroke, and new antiarrhythmic drugs for both acute chemical cardioversion and maintenance of sinus rhythm. Additional nonpharmacological therapies for atrial fibrillation that are being investigated include percutaneous left atrial appendage occlusion devices.

The Clinical Genetics Program builds on the basic science investigation of genetic abnormalities leading to cardiomyopathy. Families with hereditable forms of cardiomyopathy are screened for genetic abnormalities.