End of Network Report Heart Failure

Every year, more than six million adults in the U.S. have heart failure and nearly 380,000 die from the condition, which is difficult to treat.

This is why the American Heart Association supported four centers in the Heart Failure Strategically Funded Research Network to identify ways to better diagnose, prevent and treat heart failure in a wide array of patients through basic, clinical and population projects. The four centers are:

  • Duke University, Intersection of Heart Failure and Diabetes

  • Massachusetts General Hospital, Extracellular RNA Markers and Modulators of Heart Failure

  • University of Colorado Denver, A Comprehensive Approach to the Treatment of Heart Failure with Reduced Ejection Fraction

  • University of Utah, Functional, Metabolic, and Patient Centered Determinants of Recovery in Heart Failure

Researchers and fellows at the four institutions have presented at national and international conferences and published their findings in journals such as the Journal of the American Medical Association and Circulation Heart Failure.

Subjects investigated in the Heart Failure SFRN included:
  • The link between diabetes and heart failure patients and possible therapeutic benefits of diabetes drugs for heart failure patients

  • The role of RNA, genes that control metabolic pathways and/or “families of genes” in identifying and treating heart failure

  • Nutritional impacts — including the efficacy of a ketogenic diet — on recovery for heart failure patients, in addition to exercise and lifestyle changes

  • Socioeconomic and racial differences in identifying and treating heart failure, including how health professionals can offer more equal and inclusive care

“Heart failure is more challenging to combat than other heart-health issues,” said Anthony Rosenzweig, M.D., Center Director at Massachusetts General Hospital.

“We’ve gotten very good at getting people through their heart attacks, and we’ve gotten very good at treating high blood pressure,” he said. “The problem is the people who survive these events go on to have other issues such as heart failure, rhythm issues and other cardiovascular problems.

“Unfortunately, we’re less good at treating those. About half the heart failure we see falls into a category that we still don’t have therapies for.”

“Unfortunately, we’re less good at treating those. About half the heart failure we see falls into a category that we still don’t have therapies for.”

The Heart Failure SFRN investigated isolated aspects of different heart failure cases while sharing information between departments and centers — bringing together researchers and scientists to train a new generation and find answers to revolutionize care.

Fellows supported by the SFRN are now pursuing independent research and securing tenured positions at some of the most recognized universities across the country.

“We all feel that’s a crucial part of our mission,” Dr. Rosenzweig said. “Training the next generation of people who will replace us and become leaders in the field is so important, and there really aren’t that many mechanisms for supporting it.”

David van Wagoner, PhD, Oversight Advisory Committee Chairperson, and a translational scientist at the Cleveland Clinic specializing in heart failure and arrhythmias, said the Heart Failure SFRN was important because the condition is complex.

Heart failure with preserved ejection fraction tends to be understudied and underdiagnosed. SFRN researchers “tried to tackle questions that have a lot of unresolved issues and, definitely in heart failure, there are still quite a few unresolved issues,” said Dr. van Wagoner.

“So the goal, when you’re reviewing SFRNs, is to try to identify people who are doing outstanding science and ensure the project they propose is feasible — and that it’s going to, in theory, change the course of how you treat people.”