Collaborations, Renewal Awards, and Conclusion


Collaborations

Through the Go Red SFRN, the five centers aimed to identify risks, signal markers and underlying conditions that may influence one another in previously unrealized ways. They accomplished this by communicating and collaborating to form a more synergistic picture of how different aspects of cardiovascular health in women can be related.

“The AHA very cleverly designed these networks to have, really, a snowball effect. The emphasis on collaboration between centers has resulted in us going and getting funding for directions that we probably wouldn’t have anticipated if left to our own devices — and that’s been a beautiful thing to see,” said Carl Hubel, Ph.D., Center Director at Magee Womens Research Institute. The research has “launched” fellows “who are now doing groundbreaking work,” he said.

“That’s been really exciting. To learn from other groups — for example experts in heart failure or biochemical pathways — it was really a nobrainer for us to collaborate with them,” added Hubel, whose team co-published with the Center at Johns Hopkins University.

Columbia fellow Faris Zuraikat, who spent time at University of California, San Diego — where research into sedentary lifestyle and nutrition coincided nicely with his studies into women’s sleep and behaviors — said he felt the collaboration was critical.

“We all have different expertise within the centers and certainly, across centers, collaboration allows us to develop relationships and learn from investigators who have similar interests but either a slightly or vastly different expertise than we do,” he said.

The OAC Chairperson, Kristin Newby, M.D., said the Go Red SFRN was “uniquely set up to foster cross-institutional collaboration within the network and the opportunity to share and apply tools to another Center’s project.

“Having the investigators working in a network and with an emphasis on collaboration really fostered the team science and strengthened all the individual projects.”

Collaboration Circles

Renewal Awards

The comprehensive research and diverse findings from the Go Red SFRN are already being furthered — through ongoing work and new projects from fellows and through renewal awards.

Johns Hopkins University received funding from the AHA Strategic Renewal Grant to delve further into heart failure with preserved ejection fraction, with research ongoing through June 2022. Magee-Womens Research Institute was also awarded an AHA Strategic Renewal Grant to study the effects of perinatal stress-related mood disorders on cardiovascular health through June 2022.

Additionally, New York University received $4.4 million over the next five years from generous donor Sarah Ross Soter to continue its center’s mission to better understand gender differences in heart attacks, particularly focusing on psychosocial stress factors and higher platelet activity in women.

While female patients have been the primary focus of the center’s studies, the research can have long-term implications for the understanding of heart attack in men, as well, said Harmony Reynolds, M.D.

The original SFRN funding at NYU primarily focused on studying why women suffer heart attacks despite unclogged arteries, but the preliminary findings and ongoing research can contribute to preventing and treating heart attacks in all people, she said.

“We will never really understand why this type of heart attack is more common in women until we compare the findings in women and men. Doing studies only in women is a really important first step, but if we don’t compare it to men, it’s incomplete,” Reynolds said.

“We’ll have started by learning whether there are differences in platelet activity or genetics within women who have different types of heart attack. Then we really need to understand how that relates to men with different types of heart attack — because maybe that will give us insight not only into why women are more likely to have heart attack with open arteries, but why men are more likely to have heart attacks at younger ages and overall,” Reynolds said.

“Maybe there’s something we can learn that’s really a fundamental form of prevention.”

Conclusion

The Go Red for Women SFRN is one of 12 multi-center, multi-disciplinary research efforts created since the AHA established its first SFRN in 2014.

Other targeted topics include Prevention, Hypertension, Disparities, Heart Failure, Obesity, Children, Vascular Disease, Atrial Fibrillation, Arrhythmias & Sudden Cardiac Death, Cardiometabolic Health with a focus on Type 2 Diabetes, Health Technologies and Innovation and Disparities in Cardio-Oncology.

The varied, in-depth and innovative research conducted through the network is already being furthered across the country. Fellows and new research projects are building upon the collected data and using funding from not just the AHA but an array of nonprofit and government grants.

The Go Red SFRN is leading to revelations about biochemical markers for heart disease specific to women, who were previously understudied. This has prompted the implementation of more widespread blood pressure monitoring among new mothers in the weeks immediately following births — and beyond.

“There’s been a lot of output and a lot of potential projects from the data and the efforts funded by this grant,” Johns Hopkins University fellow Wendy Ying, M.D., said. “I foresee that the data we generated through these last few years can actually support more ideas for other fellows, not just me.”

One of the “most important” aspects of the Go Red SFRN, said OAC Chairperson Kristin Newby, M.D., was that “trainees were getting exposed to the various aspects of basic, clinical and population research, and had the opportunity to cross collaborate — and that’s essential to building young people’s careers and creating future research networks and engagement.”