Recent Discoveries

Updated:Feb 18,2013
Jeffery Molkentin

Awardee: Jeffery Molkentin, Ph.D.
Institution: Cincinnati Children's Heart Institute

After years of study and collaboration with fellow scientists, the work of Dr. Jeffery Molkentin has led to the first data proving that the enzyme calcineurin is critical in controlling normal development and function of heart cells, and that loss of the protein leads to heart problems and death in genetically modified mice.  Scientists had already figured out that calcineurin is important to heart function, but they had not established the extent of its role prior to the current study. Jeffery Molkentin, Marhorie Maillet

Gordon A Ewy

Awardee: Gordon A. Ewy, M.D.
Institution: University of Arizona Sarver Heart Center

More than 15 years ago, Dr. Ewy began to research the outcomes of performing compressions without mouth-to-mouth respiration. After running successful laboratory trials, he convinced emergency-services directors in Arizona, Wisconsin and Missouri to promote the use of compression-only CPR among people in their states. Their paramedics and firefighters began using a protocol that emphasized giving chest compressions with minimal interruptions to keep the patient's blood circulating.  The results were remarkable, with survival rates for people who got only compressions better than those who received traditional CPR.  Gordon A. Eway

Rebecca Gary

Awardee:  Rebecca Gary, Ph.D., R.N.
Institution: Emory University

Supported by an American Heart Association Beginning Grant-in-Aid Award from the Southeast Affiliate, Rebecca Gary, Ph.D., R.N., has found that aerobic exercise combined with cognitive behavioral therapy may improve physical function, reduce depressive symptoms and enhance quality of life in depressed heart failure patients.  Dr. Gary is the lead author of the study and assistant professor in the School of Nursing at Emory University in Atlanta, Ga. Rebecca Gary

Stephen Young

Awardee:  Stephen Young, M.D.
Institution: David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA

UCLA Identifies New Molecule in Body’s Processing of Dietary Fat
Funding from the American Heart Association and NHLBI has enabled UCLA researchers to identify a new molecule that may help regulate the delivery of fats to cells for energy and storage.  The finding could lead to a better understanding of how we use fats from the foods we eat. Steven Young  

Diane Treat-Jacobson

Awardee: Diane Treat-Jacobson, Ph.D., R.N.
Institution: University of Minnesota School of Nursing               

Arm Workouts Reduce Leg Pain Caused by Peripheral Arterial Disease
Funded by a scientist development grant from the American Heart Association’s Greater Midwest Affiliate, researchers have discovered that aerobic arm exercises can delay the onset of leg pain that makes walking even short distances difficult for many people with peripheral arterial disease (PAD).  Diane Treat-Jcobson

Shiriki Kummanyika

Awardee Name:  Shiriki Kumanyika, Ph.D., M.P.H.
Institution:  University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

Philadelphia Scientist Honored for Studies on Role of Diet in Reducing Heart Disease Risk
Shiriki Kumanyika, Ph.D., M.P.H., a professor in the Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, has won the first-ever American Heart Association Population Research Prize. She received the prestigious national distinction for her continued tireless efforts in a career devoted to elucidating the role of diet modifications in preventing heart disease, stroke and related disorders.  Shiriki Kumanyika 

Ralph Damanio

Awardee Name: Ralph Damiano, Jr., M.D.
Institution: Barnes-Jewish Hospital

Researcher Seeks Prevention of Post-Surgical Complication
Atrial fibrillation -- a rapid, irregular twitching of the upper chambers of the heart -- occurs in about one-third of patients who undergo heart surgeries such as coronary bypass or valve replacement. The condition can lead to serious post-operative complications, including congestive heart failure or stroke.  Ralph Damiano Jr. 

Eliseo Guallar

Awardee Name:  Eliseo Guallar, M.D., Dr.PH.
Institution: Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, M.D. 

“Safe” levels of lead and cadmium may raise risk of peripheral artery disease
Even at levels currently considered safe, two metals -- lead and cadmium -- may increase the risk of peripheral artery disease, according to research published by Eliseo Guallar, M.D., Dr.PH., an assistant professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Md.   Eliseo Guallar

Andrew Marks

Awardee Name:  Andrew R. Marks , M.D., FACC
Institution: Columbia University Medical Center, New York City

Marks Develops Drugs to Improve Stents, Angioplasty and Prevent Sudden Death
The arterial stent has been a major medical advance for treating blockages.  However, 10 to 20 percent of patients experience restenosis, or a re-blocking of the artery caused by the cells from the blood vessel growing on the stent.  Andrew R. Marks, M.D., FAHA, chairman and professor of physiology and cellular biophysics at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, addressed this complication by coating stents with drugs.  The restenosis rate for coated stents is currently less than 10 percent.   Andrew R. Marks

Julie C Lumeng

Awardee Name:  Julie C. Lumeng, M.D.
Institution:  University of Michigan Center for Human Growth and Development

Childhood Obesity and Behavioral Problems Linked
Researchers have found a clear link between childhood obesity and behavior problems.  Julie C. Lumeng, M.D., a developmental and behavioral pediatrician at the University of Michigan Center for Human Growth and Development and Department of Pediatrics, led a study that shows children who have significant behavior problems, as described by their parents, are nearly three times as likely to be overweight as other children.   Julie C. Lumeng

Steve Haffner

Awardee Name:  Steve Haffner, M.D.
Institution: University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio

ApoB: A Better Marker for Heart Disease Risk than “Bad” Cholesterol
A component of cholesterol called apolipoprotein B (apoB) may be more strongly linked to several heart disease risk factors than the LDL cholesterol for which millions of Americans are screened each year.  Steve Haffner

Richard T Lee

Awardee Name:  Richard T. Lee, M.D.
Institution:  Brigham & Women's University and Harvard Medical School

Stress protein linked to more deaths, heart failure after heart attack
A study has determined that heart attack patients with the highest levels of a “stress” protein called ST2 found in cardiac cells were seven times more likely to die within 30 days after heart attack than patients with the lowest levels.  When death and heart failure rates were combined, those with the highest levels of ST2 had a four-fold increased risk of death or congestive heart failure compared to those with lower levels.   Robert T Lee

Dababrata Mukherjee

Awardee Name:  Debabrata Mukherjee, M.D., FACC
Institution:  University of Michigan Health System, Ann Arbor

Heart Patient Survival Improves With Combination of Medicines Currently Recommended by the AHA
Dr. Mukherjee, a cardiologist with the University of Michigan Health System in Ann Arbor, led a study that found that patients who are given all four recommended medications at once after having a heart attack or acute cardiac event are 90 percent more likely to be alive six months later than those who are given none.  Debabrata Mukherjee

Toberto Bolli

Awardee Name: Roberto Bolli, M.D.
Institution:University of Louisville

Roberto Bolli, M.D., director of the Institute of Molecular Cardiology at the University of Louisville, is one of the nation's foremost leaders in cardiovascular research. 
Roberto Bolli  


Kenneth I Maynard

Awardee Name:  Kenneth I. Maynard, Ph.D., FAHA  
Current Institution: Aventis (funded while at Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard University School of Medincine)

Passion for neuroscience becomes life’s work
Almost from the beginning, Kenneth I. Maynard, Ph.D., FAHA, knew he wanted to work in the medical field.  That vision led him to study for a career in stroke and neuroscience research – and in the process he became an American Heart Association wardee and active volunteer. Kenneth I. Maynard

Michael Kontos

Awardee Name:Michael Kontos, M.D.
Institution:  V irginia Commonwealth University

Protein test sets new standard for heart attack detection
A blood test has been developed to help diagnose heart attacks in people with chest pain.  The test detects elevated protein levels associated with dying heart cells. Michael Kontose

Timothy M Olson

Awardee Name: Timothy M. Olson, M.D.
Institution:  Mayo Clinic

Mutant gene causes deadly heart enlargement
Scientists have discovered how a defective gene can cause dilated cardiomyopathy, a condition that leads to heart failure, and suggest that blood pressure lowering medications could benefit patients with this disease.  Timothy M. Olson

Christine S Moravec

Awardee Name:Christine S. Moravec, Ph.D.
Institution:The Cleveland Clinic Foundation

Mechanical heart pump can reverse heart failure
Patients with heart failure who await transplantation are assisted by mechanical pumps called left ventricular assist devices ( LVADs). LVADs pump blood through the hearts of people awaiting heart transplants. Researchers, led by Christine S. Moravec, Ph.D., an assistant staff scientist at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, found that LVADs can reverse diminished heart muscle performance.    Christine S. Moavec

Joseph Vita

Awardee Name: Dr. Joseph Vita, M.D.
Institution: Boston University School of Medicine

Black tea tames artery disease
A new study finds a strong link between drinking black tea and arterial health in individuals who have heart disease. "The study demonstrated that drinking black tea reverses endothelial dysfunction. Endothelial dysfunction is believed to contribute importantly to the development of cardiovascular disease," said Joseph Vita, M.D., a professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine, and senior author of the study.  Joseph Vita

Bruce M Psaty

Awardee Name: Bruce M. Psaty, M.D., Ph.D.
Institution:University of Washington

Drug-gene interaction associated with heart attacks in hypertensive women on hormone replacement
A study by researchers at the University of Washington shows a possible link between the presence of a genetic variant associated with blood clotting and the risk of non-fatal heart attacks in hypertensive women who take hormone replacement therapy (HRT). The study was led by Bruce M. Psaty, M.D., Ph.D., a professor of medicine, epidemiology and health services and co-director of the UW's Cardiovascular Health Research Unit.  Bruce M. Psaty

Kenneth K Wu

Awardee Name:  Kenneth K. Wu, M.D., Ph.D.
Institution:University of Texas, Houston Health Science Center

Mutated clotting gene raises risk of heart disease in blacks, but not whites
A gene involved in blood clotting is linked to a six-fold increase in risk for heart disease in African Americans, according to the first prospective study to examine the gene as it relates to heart disease. Kenneth K. Wu

Mark Newman

Awardee Name: Mark Newman, M.D.
Institution: Duke University

Bypass Surgery Leads to Decline in Cognitive Function
A study led by Mark Newman, M.D., an anesthesiologist at Duke University, has found that for many people bypass surgery results in trouble with memory, concentration and other thought processes.Mark Newman

Awardee Name: Marcella A. Wozniak, M.D., Ph.D. (photo not available)
Institution: University of Maryland School of Medicine
Journal Citation: Stroke, Volume 32, Number 1; January 2001

Return to work after stroke effected by demands of the job
The characteristics of a person's job may be a key determinant in how soon an individual returns to work after a stroke.