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University of Michigan strengthens the pulse of heart research

U-M Cardiovascular Research Center harnesses research knowledge to find new treatments for heart disease

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – The University of Michigan Cardiovascular Research Center has opened as a new hub for speeding heart and vascular research into the clinical arena.

Researchers from across campus will come together to work in labs at the North Campus Research Complex and the U-M Medical School to focus on the conditions that account for the leading cause of death across the globe.

By studying the mechanisms of cardiac muscle function and cardiac rhythm and developing new techniques in stem cell research, the CVRC expects to redefine what’s known about preventing and treating heart disease.

“Cardiovascular medicine has come a long way in a short time, but we still don’t understand everything,” says Jose Jalife, M.D., director of the U-M Cardiovascular Research Center at the NCRC.

“The research we do at the University of Michigan Cardiovascular Research Center will one day help diagnose patients sooner, deliver faster and less invasive treatments, turn now fatal diseases into minor conditions and pioneer the technologies that will help save lives.”

CVRC researchers are creating advances in cardiac surgery, vascular surgery, vascular medicine, stem cell research, cardiovascular medicine, physiology and bioengineering. 

These heart and vascular researchers will receive about $20 million in research funding during the next five years, primarily from the National Institutes of Health.

The largest group among the cardiovascular research cluster is the Center for Arrhythmia Research. Formerly located in labs 10 miles away from the health campus, CAR’s new proximity is expected to boost cohesion with researchers and electrophysiologists.

“The clustering of investigators of specific disciplines or with common research interests opens ample opportunities for collaborations,” says Hector H. Valdivia, M.D., Ph.D., professor of internal medicine and co-director of the Center for Arrhythmia Research who joined the University in January.

”It is immediately obvious that NCRC is not a ‘surplus space’  to satiate unplanned growth, but a thoughtfully designed research complex appealing to new and established investigators where top research can thrive," Valdivia says.

The U-M CAR team, which includes heart researchers recruited from State University of New York Upstate Medical University in 2007 and a dozen heart researchers brought on in late 2011, is the first to use high resolution fluorescent dye to trace the waves of electrical activity in the heart.

The Center for Arrhythmia Research includes a total of 85 people, all collaborating with U-M doctors to turn their research findings into better care. More than 2.5 million people have an arrhythmia which is usually age-related and can impair the heart’s ability to pump blood.  

Also part of the CVRC and occupying nearly 5,000 square feet at the Complex is the Conrad Jobst Laboratories where not only medical device testing and cutting-edge research is performed in prevention of blood clots and abdominal aneurysms, but future vascular surgeons also receive training.

There are a number of core units that make up the Jobst Laboratories including a molecular, hematology and cell biology unit.

Cardiovascular research cores are also offered in echocardiography, ultrasound, cardiovascular surgical models, high resolution pressure-volume loop analysis, telemetry monitoring, and exercise platforms.

Cardiovascular researchers were the first lab-based researchers to move to the NCRC, a former Pfizer facility the University acquired in 2009 that is a vibrant home for academic and private sector research.

David Canter, M.D., executive director of the NCRC, described the U-M Cardiovascular Center as pioneers, who led the acquisition of world-class technology and set a tone of collaboration at the Complex where more than 1,600 staff, faculty and researchers work today.  

“Simple insights and major breakthroughs can come from seemingly unrelated inspiration,” says CVRC director Jalife, a heart arrhythmia researcher who is a professor of internal medicine and molecular and integrative physiology.

“That’s why we strongly believe in collaboration at the University of Michigan. Working side by side, our project teams harness the diverse knowledge, skills and creative energy of every researcher to find answers about patient care.”


Watch the video "Tomorrow's Answers Start Here."

University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center

North Campus Research Complex


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