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Healthy Living: UW gets multi-million dollar grant to study sudden cardiac arrest

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The American Heart Association is pumping almost 4-million dollars into the University of Washington, opening the door for researchers to study sudden cardiac arrest and arrhythmia's in order to develop, test and implement innovative new ways to prevent and treat the potentially deadly conditions.

Each year in the United States, it's estimated 350,000 people suffer from sudden cardiac arrest which happens when the heart suddenly stops beating.  It's primarily due to an abnormal heart rhythm called an arrhythmia.  According to the American Heart Association, 90% of people who go into cardiac arrest will die.

That's where a multi-million dollar grant comes in...

The University of Washington, along with Northwestern University, the University of Michigan and Vanderbilt University Medical Center are on the receiving end of a $14 million grant to study sudden cardiac arrest and arrhythmia's.

Nona Sotoodehnia, M.D. with the UW Medicine said there are three main questions she and her colleagues are hoping to answer.

  1. What causes the heart to have an arrhythmia and stop beating?  We're trying to better understand the biologic processes that cause arhythmia's and sudden death so we can develop medications to help prevent and treat arrhythmia's and cardiac arrest.
  2. Can we predict who's most vulnerable to having arrhythmia's?  We'd like to identify those at highest risk who really would benefit from prevention methods.
  3. How do we improve resuscitation efforts?  Without prompt resuscitation, cardiac arrest is nearly always fatal.  So we're using artificial intelligence and deep learning to develop algorithms to more effectively resuscitate those who do have cardiac arrest.

One treatment being researched as part of the 4-year grant from the American Heart Association would include a nasal spray or injection that can be used during CPR to protect the brain.  The other is a drug that can normalize calcium in heart cells to prevent a deadly arrhythmia.  Teams will also be working to improve response times for CPR and create more individualized care.

"The current approach to cardiac arrest research and clinical care largely takes a one-size-fits-most approach, treating mean and women similarly," said Dr. Sotoodehnia.  "However, key differences between men and women in cardiac arrest incidence, risk factors, underlying pathology and outcomes highlight the need for a  more individualized approach."

Dr. Sotoodehnia says the center at the University of Washington will use genomics and personalized medicine approaches to identify who's at high risk for cardiac arrest and to understand the underlying causes of cardiac arrest in men and women.

To learn more about the research, click here.


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