OHSU Receives $1.2 Million Grant to Advance Research on Sudden Cardiac Arrest

06/18/03    Portland, Ore.

Oregon Health & Science University cardiology researchers have received $1.2 million to join a national consortium studying sudden cardiac arrest. The four-year grant from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation will support the work of Sumeet Chugh, M.D., director of OHSU's Heart Rhythm Research Laboratory. Through this lab he leads a multidisciplinary team studying the causes of sudden cardiac arrest.

The grant will fund a project that hopes to combine clinical information gathered from actual sudden cardiac arrests in the community with genetic information to help investigators create therapies to prevent this deadly disease. Investigators will look for new ways to identify and treat patients with coronary heart disease who are at risk for sudden cardiac arrest.

"At present the outlook for managing and treating sudden cardiac arrest is dismal," said Chugh, cardiologist and associate professor of medicine in the OHSU School of Medicine. "If someone collapses with a terminal heart rhythm disorder, they only have a 5 to10 percent chance of survival, so advancing prevention and prediction of this condition is critical. If we can do that, we will have a significant impact on the fight against heart disease."

Sudden cardiac arrest results from a heart rhythm disorder that strikes some 400,000 Americans every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC also reports that more than 70 percent of cardiac deaths in Oregon are sudden, one of the highest percentages in the country. The overwhelming majority of these patients have associated coronary heart disease.

The consortium is led by the Reynolds Cardiovascular Center at Johns Hopkins University, which is affiliated with three other Reynolds Centers at the Harvard Medical School, the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and Stanford University. OHSU's team was asked by Johns Hopkins researchers to participate in this effort because of its proven track record of investigating cardiac arrests that take place in people's homes or in public settings, where most of them occur.

"We know the most effective way to solve a complex problem is to understand the individual parts that make up the whole, which is what we are doing to find the answers to why people suffer cardiac arrests without warning," said Chugh.

This new project will complement an ongoing project, the Oregon Sudden Unexplained Death Study, or SUDS, in which Chugh and colleagues are focusing on the discovery of novel mechanisms of sudden cardiac arrest in patients who do not have coronary heart disease or other known cardiac disorders. In the process, these investigators identify and study all instances of sudden cardiac arrest in Multnomah County, thereby gathering critical community-based data.

Though OHSU scientists are conducting their research in Oregon, several Reynolds' investigators nationwide will have access to their study results. The availability of a wide array of researchers and their research tools will greatly improve the power of the investigative approach. The information gained in this ongoing study will be directly applicable to the Reynolds Foundation investigation.

Oregon SUDS is funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The multidisciplinary team includes Jonathan Jui, M.D., director of Multnomah County Emergency Medical Services and American Medical Response; Karen Gunson, M.D., the State Medical Examiner; and investigators from the OHSU School of Medicine's Departments of Cardiology, Emergency Medicine, Pathology, Medical Informatics and Clinical Epidemiology, and Molecular Genetics as well as 16 Portland-area hospitals.

"For a long time the hope has been that a large consortium of scientists would come together under one umbrella to study the phenomenon of sudden cardiac arrest in coronary heart disease. If they all study the same population of patients, the resultant findings are rendered much more comparable and relevant," said Chugh. "Through the Reynolds grants, this coordinated effort is happening for the first time. It's very exciting and very promising."

The project OHSU is involved with is part of a $24 million-Reynolds grant based at the Johns Hopkins University Reynolds Center which is directed by Eduardo Marban, M.D. Other collaborators include the Johns Hopkins University, Harvard University, Indiana University, the University of Maryland and Wake Forest University.

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