Posted June 18, 2014

NIH grant to explore new possibilities in heart failure treatment

A $11.5 NIH million grant will allow scientists in Temple University's School of Medicine focus on key molecular mechanisms in heart failure.

Nearly 6 million Americans suffer from heart failure, but a lack of innovative treatments gives them little hope for a cure. Now, thanks to a new $11.5 million National Institutes of Health National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute Program Project Grant, scientists in Temple University School of Medicine will focus on key molecular mechanisms in heart failure, which could lead to the development of new heart therapies.

The grant’s principal investigator is Walter J. Koch, the William Wikoff Smith Chair in Cardiovascular Medicine, professor and chair of the Department of Pharmacology, and director of the Center for Translational Medicine at Temple. Joining Koch is Steven R. Houser, MED ’78, senior associate dean for research, professor and chair of the Department of Physiology, and director of Temple’s Cardiovascular Research Center, and Arthur M. Feldman, executive dean of the School of Medicine and chief academic officer of Temple University Health System.

Each scientist is leading a specific project for the grant. Their three projects focus on signaling pathways implicated in cardiac injury and repair, and they likely intersect in heart-failure pathology, underscoring the significance of their collaborative research.

“The Program Project Grant gives us the opportunity to develop novel approaches to treat ischemic heart disease,” Houser said. “Our goal is to have new therapeutics ready for patients.”

Through previous Program Project Grant funding, Feldman, Houser and Koch developed highly integrated research programs aimed at better understanding the signaling molecules involved in heart failure. Their preliminary research resulted in the identification of the three signaling pathways they are now investigating for the second grant.

The funding comes at a key time, since the number of those in the U.S. who suffer from heart failure is expected to increase from 5 million to 10 million by 2031. That increase will be accompanied by a significant rise in deaths from the condition if new therapies are not developed soon.

Temple is a key site for the origination of those much-needed treatments: When the first PPG was awarded, Feldman and Koch were based at Thomas Jefferson University in Center City Philadelphia. Now, having all three scientists located in the same building allows for a greater level of interaction in heart-failure research in both the Center for Translational Medicine and the Cardiovascular Research Center.

“The Program Project Grant is of great importance to Temple,” Feldman said. “It provides not only funding for specific projects, but also supports state-of-the-art core facilities and a platform for team scienceboth of which are critical to success in this era of translational science.”