CU Anschutz & other Top Universities Study Cardiovascular Impacts from COVID-19

May 2, 2020 | Cardiovascular, Coronavirus, COVID-19, CU Anschutz, Social Determinants of Health

CU Anschutz & other Top Universities Study Cardiovascular Impacts from COVID-19

A team of CU Anschutz researchers teamed with scientists from the Cleveland Clinic, Mayo Clinic, and Stanford University as well as others to secure a grant from the American Heart Association (AHA) to investigate the effects of COVID-19 on the body’s cardiovascular and cerebrovascular systems. The grant originated from the Cardiovascular Impact Rapid Response Grant from the AHA.

The Grant

AHA awarded $1.2 million to teams of 12 of those institutions including CU Anschutz. The AHA reports that over 750 proposals were submitted in response to their grant competition—one of the largest responses the AHA ever had to a signal topic.

The Challenge

As Michael Bristow, MD, PhD professor of cardiology and leader of the team from the CU School of Medicine reports: “Despite extensive evidence of clinically important cardiac involvement in some COVID-19 patients, virtually nothing is known about how the virus is affecting the heart and why patients with a history of heart problems are more at risk.” Dr. Bristow continued, “We don’t even know if the virus can directly infect heart muscle cells.”

CU Anschutz Work Relevant

Dr. Bristow’s lab was critical to the selection of this team. Based on the work his lab as accomplished over the last 15 years, the team knows that the receptor the COVID-19 virus binds to is increased in abnormal heart muscle and other mechanisms may be responsible for patients with histories of heart problems being more susceptible to the cardiac effects of COVID-19.

The Study

The team will work with COVID-19 patients with some involvement with catheters; the study team will take samples of the heart muscle and they will be involved with “…measuring the amount as well as the cell-localization of the virus.” Reports Bristow. He continued, “We’ll then investigate how the virus is altering the heart’s histologic and molecular makeup. Hopefully, these findings will set the stage for more specific treatment of cardiac involvement in COVID-19 disease.”

The Cleveland Clinic will serve as the study’s COVID-19 Coordinating Center. A team from this center will collect results from the research projects and coordinate the dissemination of all study findings.

Social Determinants of Health & COVID-19

There is a flood of data coming in that those who are poor, elderly, and belonging to ethnic minority groups—such as African Americas—face greater risk during this pandemic. Hence during this study, the team will focus on issues centering on social determinants of health. For example, Robert A. Harrington, MD, FAHA, and Arthur L. Bloomfield, Professor of Medicine and chair of the department of medicine at Stanford University reports “Several of these studies focus on disparity and underserved populations and many with pre-existing conditions and that’s critical because we’re seeing these people coming in sicker and getting sicker faster from the complications of COVID-19 and we need to understand what’s causing that and how we can help them.”

CU Anschutz

The University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus is the academic health sciences campus in Aurora, Colorado that houses the University of Colorado’s six health sciences-related schools and colleges, including the University of Colorado School of Medicine. A major research player, they secured nearly $520 million in research grants in 2019.

Lead Research/Investigators

Michael Bristow, MD, PhD professor of cardiology and leader of the team from the CU School of Medicine

Natasha Altman, MD Cardiology

John Messenger, MD Cardiology

Edward Gill, MD, Cardiology

Thomas Campbell, MD Infectious Diseases

Amber Berning, MD Pathology


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