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New strategies to treat & prevent the serious irregular heart rhythm condition - atrial fibrillation

Professor Julie McMullen, Institution: Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute

2021 Vanguard Grant  

Years funded: 2022-2023  

Differences in enlargement of the atria (upper chambers of the heart) in physiological settings (e.g. exercise) and pathological settings (e.g. heart disease) are largely unknown. This is a key question because pathological but not physiological atrial enlargement is associated with atrial fibrillation (AF). AF is the most common irregular heart rhythm disorder worldwide associated with increased stroke and mortality. Professor Julie McMullen's project combines discovery research with a clinical study.

Aim 1: To study and understand key differences between physiological and pathological atrial enlargement.  
Aim 2: To examine whether a “good” gene elevated with exercise provides protection against atrial pathological enlargement and AF.
Aim 3: To identify new biomarkers which are correlated with atrial enlargement, scar tissue and heart rhythm disturbances in patients with AF, and assess whether these predict future AF. 

Expected Outcomes:

  1.  New therapies for AF
  2. Identification of new markers which predict atrial pathology and AF

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