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LIMR investigator awarded NIH grant to study treatments for life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias

Lankenau Medical Center September 17, 2018 Research News

Charles Antzelevitch, PhD, a professor at the Lankenau Institute for Medical Research (LIMR), part of Main Line Health, was awarded a grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study novel treatment approaches for the management of serious irregularities in heart rhythm.

Dr. Antzelevitch, who also serves as director of research for Lankenau Heart Institute, is a world-renowned expert on J Wave Syndromes, which are associated with life-threatening arrhythmias. Two J Wave Syndromes in particular, Brugada syndrome (BrS) and early repolarization syndrome (ERS), are inherited heart diseases that contribute to sudden cardiac death of young adults, and in some cases have been shown to be responsible for sudden infant death. He and his team will study novel pharmacological management of these syndromes.

In particular, they will study the effects of the natural flavone acacetin and structurally similar molecules to prevent the life-threatening arrhythmias associated with these syndromes.

“We have been working to discover safe and effective treatments for the J wave syndromes for over 20 years” said Dr. Antzelevitch. “Successful management of these syndromes—for which current treatment alternatives are limited—will close a very significant gap in our therapeutic arsenal for patients at risk for sudden cardiac death.”

BrS prevalence is higher in Asian countries and among Japanese-Americans than among those in western countries. The National Organization for Rare Diseases notes that approximately five in 10,000 people have the disorder, and recent reports suggest that BrS may be responsible for up to 20 percent of sudden death in patients with hearts that are structurally normal.

ERS, on the other hand, appears to be more common. An early repolarization pattern (ERP) in the ECG is observed in up to 13 percent of the general population, according to a report published by the American College of Cardiology. It is as yet unclear how many of these are at risk for life-threatening arrhythmic events, noted Dr. Antzelevitch. While no significant regional differences in the prevalence of ERP have been reported, it is significantly more common in blacks than in Caucasians.

“Our challenge moving forward is to identify those individuals who truly are at risk and to design safe and effective treatments,” he said. “We believe our study is a critical step in the ultimate achievement of those goals.”

Dr. Antzelevitch is an expert on cardiac electrophysiology and arrhythmia syndromes. He and fellow LIMR researcher Gan-Xin Yan, MD, PhD, convened a consensus conference in 2015 to update the scientific and clinical communities on the mechanisms, diagnosis, prognosis, risk stratification, and treatment of BrS and ERS. And in 2016, the report of the J-Wave Expert Consensus Conference was published simultaneously in three biomedical journals, a highly unusual occurrence that speaks to the importance of their work. Additionally, Drs. Antzelevitch and Yan served as editors for “J Wave Syndromes: Brugada and Early Repolarization Syndromes,” a medical textbook containing further material to help clinicians identify and manage patients with these conditions.

Through the years, Dr. Antzelevitch’s research has been funded by public agencies such as NIH, the State of New York Department of Health, and the State of New York Stem Cell Center; organizations such as the American Heart Association and Heart Rhythm Society; private foundations; and pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies. For more on his research, visit bit.ly/2oYCnuD.

About Main Line Health

Founded in 1985,Main Line Health is a not-for-profit health system serving portions of Philadelphia and its western suburbs. Main Line Health’s commitment—to deliver advanced medicine to treat and cure disease while also playing an important role in prevention and disease management as well as training physicians and other health care providers—reflects our intent to keep our community and ourselves well ahead. A team of more than 10,000 employees and 2,000 physicians care for patients throughout the Main Line Health system.

At Main Line Health’s core are four of the region’s most respected acute care hospitals—Lankenau Medical Center, Bryn Mawr Hospital, Paoli Hospital and Riddle Hospital—as well as one of the nation’s recognized facilities for rehabilitative medicine, Bryn Mawr Rehabilitation Hospital.

Main Line Health also includes Mirmont Treatment Center for drug and alcohol recovery; Main Line Health HomeCare & Hospice, which includes skilled home health care, hospice and home infusion services; Main Line Health Centers, primary and specialty care, lab and radiology, and other outpatient services located in Broomall, Collegeville, Concordville, Exton, King of Prussia and Newtown Square; Lankenau Institute for Medical Research, a biomedical research organization; and Main Line HealthCare,one of the region’s largest multispecialty physician networks.

Main Line Health is the recipient of numerous awards for quality care and service, including System Magnet® designation, the nation’s highest distinction for nursing excellence and the Mid-Atlantic Alliance for Performance Excellence (MAAPE) Excellence Award. Main Line Health is committed to creating an environment of diversity, respect and inclusion and has proudly embraced the American Hospital Association’s #123forEquity Pledge to Act to eliminate disparities in care. We are dedicated to advancing patient-centered care, education and research to help our community stay healthy.

About Lankenau Institute for Medical Research

Lankenau Institute for Medical Research (LIMR) is a nonprofit biomedical research institute located on the campus of Lankenau Medical Center and is part of Main Line Health. Founded in 1927, LIMR’s mission is to improve human health and well-being. Faculty and staff are devoted to advancing innovative new approaches to formidable medical challenges, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, gastrointestinal disorders and autoimmune diseases, such as diabetes and arthritis. LIMR’s principal investigators conduct basic, preclinical and translational research, using their findings to explore ways to improve disease detection, diagnosis, treatment and prevention. They are committed to extending the boundaries of human health through technology transfer and training of the next generation of scientists and physicians.