News | October 17, 2014

Mass General Institute for Heart, Vascular and Stroke Care to Serve as Coordinating Site for New Transatlantic Network of Excellence

Global research team will study genetic causes of atrial fibrillation

October 17, 2014 – The electrophysiology service of the Massachusetts General Hospital Institute for Heart, Vascular and Stroke Care announces participation in a new Transatlantic Network of Excellence as part of a $6 million award from the Leducq Foundation. The Transatlantic Network of Excellence is made up of a team of researchers from around the world tasked with conducting first of its kind research on the genetic causes of atrial fibrillation (AF). The institute will serve as the coordinating site in the United States and Amsterdam Medical Center will serve as the coordinating site for Europe. The network will provide a platform for conducting cutting-edge and meaningful research into this common arrhythmia.

AF is an irregularity of the heart rhythm in which the electrical signals in the upper chambers of the heart or atria beat in an uncoordinated fashion. As a result of this irregular rhythm patients are at risk for developing strokes and congestive heart failure. It is estimated that nearly 3 million people in the United States and 4.5 million people in Europe suffer from AF.

Although recent research has successfully identified genetic variants that are associated with AF, there is a limited understanding of mechanisms through which these genetic variants lead to AF. The Transatlantic Network of Excellence will use novel “four-dimensional” analyses of genome interactions to understand the underlying mechanisms that lead to AF in affected patients. The results of the research will provide new insights into the cause of AF and provide new diagnostic tools and drug discoveries to reduce the burden of stroke, death and hospitalizations associated with AF.

“It is very encouraging and impressive to see a group of experts with disparate backgrounds come together with the same goal in mind – to have the ability to identify the populations at greatest risk of atrial fibrillation,” said Patrick T. Ellinor, M.D., Ph.D., at the Mass General Institute for Heart, Vascular and Stroke Care and coordinator for the network in the United States. “We hope the discoveries of our research will not only provide insights into the cause of atrial fibrillation, but other diseases as well. Ultimately, with a better understanding of the underlying genetic mechanisms of atrial fibrillation, we can improve overall patient care.”

The Transatlantic Network of Excellence is comprised of a team of researchers from around the globe with diverse backgrounds. Beyond Ellinor, the unique collaboration includes the following experts:

 

  • Ivan Moskowitz, M.D., Ph.D., University of Chicago
  • Jim Martin, M.D., Ph.D., Baylor College of Medicine in Houston
  • Vincent Christoffels, Ph.D., Amsterdam Medical Center, European coordinator of the network
  • Wouter de Laat, Ph.D., Hubrecht Institute in the Netherlands
  • Paulus Kirchhof, M.D., professor, University of Birmingham and Sandwell & West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust in Birmingham, United Kingdom

 

The Transatlantic Network of Excellence entitled “Deciphering the Genomic Topology of Atrial Fibrillation” is funded by a $6 million award by the Leducq Foundation and will span over five years beginning in October 2014.

For more information: www.massgeneral.org/institute

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