MINNEAPOLIS/ST. PAUL (10/10/2023) — Lin Yee Chen, MD, MS, a professor at the University of Minnesota Medical School and director of the Lillehei Heart Institute, has been awarded a $4.39 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to study atrial myopathy—a heart condition associated with a higher risk of dementia and vascular brain injury.

“This project has the potential to identify a novel risk factor for dementia and stroke. Importantly, we can potentially modify this risk factor to reduce the risk of dementia and stroke,” said Dr. Chen, who is also a cardiac electrophysiologist with M Health Fairview. 

Atrial myopathy is a condition that affects the muscles in the upper chambers of the heart. It can lead to heart rhythm issues and can make it harder for the heart to pump blood effectively. Atrial myopathy has been linked to an increased risk of dementia, stroke and neuroimaging markers of vascular brain injury. However, prior research has been limited by the lack of data in people 85 years and older and the lack of data on how atrial myopathy changes over time. These limitations have constrained progress on discovering novel therapies to prevent atrial myopathy and its neurocognitive impact, particularly in older people. 

Dr. Chen's project aims to characterize atrial myopathy progression and trajectories of the condition in older adults and clarify its relationship to the incidence of dementia and mild cognitive impairment. The research team will also analyze the impact of atrial myopathy progression on neuroimaging and plasma biomarkers of dementia, as well as identify specific lifestyle or molecular risk factors for atrial myopathy progression.

The project will leverage the extensive data in the well-characterized Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities cohort and measure left atrial function over time. This will allow the team to characterize the trajectories of atrial myopathy progression. They will also conduct ambulatory heart rhythm monitoring to detect atrial fibrillation in order to account for the contribution of atrial fibrillation to disease associations.

This $4.39 million grant is awarded for fiscal year 2023.


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