Cardiology

You are here

Current Projects

Molecular and Computational Cardiology

Ventricular tachycardia (VT) is a potentially life-threatening rhythm disorder of the heart. While there are several different causes of VT, about 10% of patients have no apparent structural cardiac abnormalities, in what is called “idiopathic” VT. In the most common form of idiopathic VT, called RVOT, patients have no family history of VT.

Research conducted under the leadership of Weill Cornell Cardiology Professor Bruce Lerman since the 1980s has suggested that RVOT is caused by a mutation in the gene for a protein called Gsα, and indeed such a mutation has been discovered in cardiac cells in Dr. Lerman’s laboratory. This is surprising, because in general the cells of the heart, unlike other organs where this mutation is found, do no continue to grow and divide after adulthood.

Current research, funded by the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Foundation, involves reproducing the Gsα mutation in mice, in order to investigate the properties of the heart and in particular its responsiveness to VT. Developing a mouse model of this unique form of VT represents an important milestone in the cellular and molecular elucidation of this disorder.

RTXI (The Real-Time eXperiment Interface) is a highly versatile, open-source software system that allows researchers to proble complex biological mechanisms with new experimental methods that were impossible under previous experimental control systems. It has been developed under the direction of Weill Cornell Cardiology Professor David J. Christini since 2004.

The ability of experimentalists to explore biological systems has traditionally been limited to rigid preprogrammed protocols. In contrast, “real-time” control experiments are continually adjusted as measurements are taken. This has allowed seminal investigations in the functions of neurons and cardiac cells, among many applications. However, real-time control is not possible with standard computer software, and commercial real-time systems are costly and tailored for industrial applications. Circumventing these limitations, RTXI is open source and free, can be used with an extensive range of experimentation hardware, and can be run on Linux or Windows computers.

RTXI is an invaluable tool for many prominent scientific groups around the world. In addition to updating and maintaining RTXI for these and future users, Dr. Christini’s group is continually adding functions to RTXI to enable new experiment paradigms. RTXI is funded under NIH grant R01 EB016407 through 2017. For more information about RTXI, see www.rtxi.org.

For information about other research projects taking place in the Christini lab, visit www.christinilab.org.

Arrythmia and Cardiac Electrophysiology

This study seeks to determine whether patients who have received a device called an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD), and who are considered to be at a high risk for certain dangerous heart rhythm disorders, will have fewer of these negative outcomes if they are treated with a drug called Ranolazine. Positive results would add a valuable treatment option for many patients.

This study is being conducted at approximately 70 centers across the United States, and is funded by National Institutes of Health grant U01 HL096607. The principal investigator at Weill Cornell Cardiology is Dr. George Thomas. The study is currently open to enrollment: see studies open to enrollment.

Some patients who are treated with a cardiac resynchronization therapy or “CRT” device, commonly known as a biventricular pacemaker, can derive significant benefit from the optimization of timing of their devices. The optimization process normally requires an echocardiogram, but the results can be imprecise, and some patients who receive this treatment do not go on to have improved outcomes. This study investigates the role of using an electrocardiogram for CRT optimization in place of the echocardiogram. The hypothesis is that this method can improve the precision and effectiveness of the optimization process. Additionally, an electrocardiogram is a much simpler procedure than an echocardiogram, which may lead to increased convenience for patients, and reduced health care costs, along with potentially improved outcomes. This study is supported by grants from the Michael Wolk Heart Foundation and the New York Cardiac Center. The principal investigator is Jim W. Cheung, MD. The study is currently open to enrollment: see studies open to enrollment.

Interventional Cardiology and Valvular Heart Disease

The aortic valve, the largest valve in the heart, helps to control the flow of blood from the most powerful chamber in the heart, the left ventricle, to the largest artery in the body, the aorta. When this crucial passageway becomes narrowed in a condition known as aortic valve stenosis, either due to congenital conditions, disease, or the normal aging process, the consequences for the patient can be severe. Artifical aortic valves can be a life-saving solution, but valve-replacement surgery is too risky to attempt for many patients. However, the Edwards SAPIEN Transcatheter Heart Valve, which was first approved for use by the FDA in 2011, can be placed in the patient’s heart by means of a narrow catheter, avoiding the need for surgery. This technology addresses a major unmet clinical need and promises to transform a significant area of the practice of Cardiology. Research on the best ways to use the SAPIEN valve has been conducted nationwide since 2007 in a series of studies known as the PARTNER and PARTNER II trials. Together with colleagues in the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery, Weill Cornell Cardiology has been at the forefront of this transformative research under the leadership of Dr. S. Chiu Wong.

For more information about the PARTNER and PARTNER II trials, including links to publications, see http://www.clinicaltrials.gov/ct/show/NCT00530894 and http://www.clinicaltrials.gov/ct/show/NCT01314313.

The PARTNER II trial is currently open to enrollment: see the studies open to enrollment.

Clinical Cardiology and Heart Failure

This study seeks to determine whether patients who have received a device called an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD), and who are considered to be at a high risk for certain dangerous heart rhythm disorders, will have fewer of these negative outcomes if they are treated with a drug called Ranolazine. Positive results would add a valuable treatment option for many patients.

This study is being conducted at approximately 70 centers across the United States, and is funded by National Institutes of Health grant U01 HL096607. The principal investigator at Weill Cornell Cardiology is Dr. George Thomas. The study is currently open to enrollment: see studies open to enrollment.

Noninvasive Cardiac Imaging

The Strong Heart Study is designed to assess cardiovascular disease risk factors in American Indians. It is the largest epidemiologic study of American Indians ever undertaken, and the largest prospective, multicenter, epidemiological and genetic study focused on diabetes and cardiovascular disease ever conducted in any ethnic group. The study has included 13 American Indian tribes and communities in Arizona, Oklahoma, and North and South Dakota. It has been supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the United States National Institutes of Health since 1988.

Weill Cornell Cardiology has served as the ECG and Ultrasound Reading Center for the Strong Heart Study since 1992, under the direction of Dr. Richard B. Devereux, Medical Director of Weill Cornell’s Echocardiography Laboratory. Cardiology collaborators include Dr. Mary Roman, Dr. Peter Okin, and Dr. Ingrid Hriljac. This research has resulted in over 100 peer-reviewed publications in scientific journals.

The Strong Heart Study has made and is continuing to make major scientific contributions and improvements to the health of American Indians as well as all other citizens of the United States. The current stage of the project, entitled Cardiovascular Disease in American Indians, is funded under NIH grant R01 HL109282 through the year 2018. In addition, a subsidiary project, the Strong Heart Stroke Study, is funded under NIH grant R01 HL093086.

For more information about the Strong Heart Study, visit strongheart.ouhsc.edu.

Heart failure, a condition in which the heart cannot pump enough blood to serve the body’s normal requirements, can cause significant problems for patients’ quality of life. In a majority of patients with heart failure, one chamber of the heart, the left ventricle, does not pump out, or “eject,” as much blood as a healthy heart. However, in many heart failure patients, the left ventricle ejects the normal amount of blood, a condition known as “heart failure with a normal ejection fraction.” Patients with heart failure are also commonly found to suffer from coronary atherosclerosis, the unhealthy thickening of the walls of the arteries around the heart. This study investigates the possibility that the health outcomes for many patients suffering from heart failure with a normal ejection fraction actually result largely from their coronary atherosclerosis. If this is confirmed, it would have significant implications for the medical care for these patients. The principal investigator at Weill Cornell Cardiology is Dr. Fay Lin. This work is funded by a grant from the American Heart Association. The study is currently open to enrollment: see studies open to enrollment.

This project is intended to improve methods to detect a heart blood clot or “thrombus,” and a heart valve problem called mitral valve regurgitation, for people who are recovering from a heart attack. Another goal is to find ways to predict the risks that these conditions may pose for these patients. The traditional way to detect thrombus and mitral valve regurgitation is by means of echocardiography. This study compares echocardiography to MRI, in the hope that the imaging power of MRI will improve physicians’ ability to identify patients’ potential risks, and thereby help in their treatment. Funding is provided by the National Institutes of Health under grant K23 HL102249 with principal investigator Jonathan Weinsaft, MD. Some elements of the study are also funded by a clinical research grant from the Lantheus Corporation. This study is currently open to enrollment: see studies open to enrollment.

Cardiology Services
for Researchers

Grants and Clinical Trials Central Administration:
(212) 746 2540

Electrophysiology Research:
(212) 746 4857

Interventional Cardiology Research:
(212) 746 4617

Heart Failure Research:
(212) 746 2698

Weill Cornell Connect Ways to Give Health Library

Weill Cornell Medical College
Division of Cardiology
520 East 70th Street
Starr 443
New York, NY 10021