Heart Research at Iowa

The University of Iowa boasts an exceptional number of cardiovascular research programs that focus on understanding cardiovascular disease, from the single molecule to the patient.

Under the leadership of Dr. Francois Abboud, director of the Cardiovascular Research Center, and Dr. Mark Anderson, chair of internal medicine, UI researchers have made important contributions that include:

  • Identification of the key molecules and pathways that transmit electrical and chemical signals in the heart and are involved in the cardiovascular response to high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes and reduced blood flow to heart muscle (for example, during a heart attack.)
  • Linking molecular defects to human diseases, including cardiac arrhythmia, hypertension and diabetes.
  • Revealing the two sides of a molecule called Calmodulin Kinase, which is important for the proper functioning of pacemaker cells in response to "fight or flight" situations, but can also cause pacemaker cells to die if it is inappropriately active, for example in hypertension and heart failure. Pacemaker cells are the heart cells responsible for maintaining normal heart beat.
  • Developing a new mouse model of atrial fibrillation. Experiments using the model showed that inhibition of Calmodulin Kinase -- an important enzyme involved in responding to chemical signals in the heart -- successfully prevented atrial fibrillation in the mice.
  • Identification of a new gene mutation that caused atrial fibrillation in family with multiple members affected by the condition.

The University of Iowa is also a leading institution for translational and clinical trials on heart disease including:

  • Preliminary study results suggest that taking omega-3 fish oil prior to surgery is not effective in preventing atrial fibrillation that can sometimes develop after heart surgery.
  • Analysis of data from the AFFIRM clinical trial suggests that women with atrial fibrillation have a higher risk of stroke than men despite the use of warfarin as a blood thinner.