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University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center
Publish Date: 02/22/05
Media Contact: AHC Public Relations, (513) 558-4553
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NIH Awards UC $19.8 Million for Heart Failure Study

UC has received major federal funding to study genetic and environmental factors associated with heart failure in African-American, Caucasian and Latino populations.

The $19,871,486 million grant, called a Specialized Center of Clinically Oriented Research (SCCOR), was awarded over five years by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and will support five projects.

"This research will provide answers as to why heart disease progresses differently in different populations," says Gerald Dorn II, MD, Hanna Professor of Cardiology and associate dean for cardiovascular affairs at UC’s Academic Health Center. "What we learn will allow us to identify high-risk patients and tailor preventative measures and treatment unique to these individuals."

The new grant, led by Dr. Dorn, will involve three UC departments—internal medicine, pharmacology and cell biophysics, and pediatrics—and the University of Texas, San Antonio, where investigators will gather data from Latino populations. Patients will be recruited locally at University Hospital’s Heart Failure Treatment Center, University Pointe in West Chester, and the General Clinical Research Center at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

UC researchers leading SCCOR grant projects include Dr. Dorn, Litsa Kranias, PhD, Stephen Liggett, MD, Jeffery Molkentin, PhD, and Jeffrey Robbins, PhD. Co-investigators are Harvey Hahn, MD, and Lynne Wagoner, MD.

The Science

While there are many causes of heart failure, including viral infections, coronary atherosclerosis and familial inheritance, it is becoming clearer that a patient’s genetic makeup helps determine how the disease progresses and how the patient responds to treatment.

In research that includes genetic and cardiac testing of patients in the UC Heart Failure Program, and studying human genes in mouse models, Drs. Dorn and Liggett will look for common individual variations in genetic makeup—different genetic "fingerprints"—and try to define factors that cause or modify heart failure.

Dr. Kranias, in collaboration with UC cardiologists, will study rare gene mutations that run in families and cause highly lethal forms of inherited heart failure.

Drs. Robbins and Molkentin, from UC’s Department of Pediatrics and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Research Foundation, will apply sophisticated gene manipulation techniques in laboratory animals to resolve fundamental questions about heart function in health and disease.


Specialized Center of Clinically Oriented Research (SCCOR) funding will allow UC researchers to start new projects and build upon findings from the original Specialized Center of Research (SCOR) grant received from the NHLBI in 1995.

Thanks to their original SCOR funding, in 2002 UC researchers were the first to discover the association between two known gene variants and poor outcomes in African-Americans with heart failure. Read more about this research.

The same year, the NHLBI changed the Specialized Center of Research (SCOR) program to Specialized Center of Clinically Oriented Research (SCCOR) when it put more emphasis on clinical research projects.

Of the 11 academic health centers receiving the original adult cardiac SCOR grants, UC alone successfully transitioned to the new grant program.

UC is the only academic health center nationally to hold both adult and pediatric SCCOR grants, says Dr. Dorn. UC’s Department of Pediatrics and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center received their SCCOR grant in February 2004.

Other designated heart failure SCCOR centers are Cleveland Clinic, Columbia University, Washington University and the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

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