Leading Breakthroughs in Science & Technology

female researcher in lab

“Science does not know its debt to imagination.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson

We owe a debt to the supporters who sustain the science that fuels our fight against heart disease and stroke, the world’s leading killers.

Sarah Sally Soter Ross
Sarah “Sally” Ross Soter

Longtime donor Sarah (Sally) Ross Soter and her husband, Bill, with support from the Soter Kay Foundation, gave generously to the AHA to support scientific discovery. Part of their gift extended their funding of the Sarah Ross Soter Center for Women’s Cardiovascular Research at New York University Langone Health. The goal is to expand ongoing cardiovascular research focused exclusively on women.

Another Soter family gift will support high blood pressure and diabetes management in Palm Beach County. High blood pressure is dubbed the “silent killer” and is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke, and untreated diabetes can lead to serious complications.

Vaping is another serious health threat — in fact, it’s an epidemic in this country, especially among teens. In early 2020, over 3.5 million youth in the United States were vaping, including one in five high school students. With nearly $17 million in funding from the AHA, scientists from Boston University, Ohio State University and Yale University are studying the impact of nicotine in 15- to 24-year-olds, as well as methods for cessation.

With a focus on team science and collaboration, the AHA’s Strategically Focused Research Networks (SFRNs) continue to delve into critical scientific discoveries. The Go Red for Women SFRN, in conjunction with Research Goes Red, announced two new studies of millennial women. The first study aims to increase awareness and action around cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases among women in underrepresented racial and ethnic groups. The second focuses on the health impact of weight during menopause.

The risk of death from heart disease is eight times higher in cancer survivors compared with the general population. We announced an SFRN dedicated to disparities in cardio-oncology with $15 million in funding. Accelerating scientific discoveries to improve care for cardio-oncology patients also spurred an alliance with CancerLinQ LLC, a nonprofit subsidiary of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

We launched an additional SFRN to study cardiometabolic health & Type 2 diabetes mellitus.

One Brave Idea, our $85 million quest co-founded by AHA and Verily with significant support from AstraZeneca and pillar support from Quest, has worked to use nimble and novel scientific approaches to prevent or reverse coronary heart disease and its consequences. Three core projects have focused on deep phenotyping through wet and digital approaches, data science, machine learning and software engineering. The team has created an interactive educational platform to engage scientists, entrepreneurs and clinicians from across the country to advance innovation in health care. OBI2, our next generation enterprise, will pioneer scientific breakthroughs and revolutionize how discoveries get to the bedside.

Millions of people live with cardiac defects present at birth and abnormalities that develop due to aging, injury or infection. Edwards Lifesciences committed $10 million to the AHA to improve the standard of care for these patients. With an initial focus on aortic stenosis, the initiative will raise awareness and advance patient-centered education and guideline-directed diagnosis and treatment.

Children born with heart defects have better-than-ever chances of overcoming them, thanks to ongoing scientific research. The Children’s Heart Foundation and the AHA announced two recipients of the sixth round of Congenital Heart Defect Research Awards, which will fund more than $22 million in research through 2021. The AHA and Enduring Hearts are co-funding $3 million in grants to investigators researching ways to improve life for pediatric transplant recipients.

Longer, healthier lives are also the catalyst behind the launch of the Apple Heart and Movement Study with Brigham and Women’s Hospital to drive insight into factors that affect heart health and movement over time. Using the Apple Watch, researchers can gain a better understanding of potential early warning signs to create interventions and products that promote health.

Female Scientific Sessions attendee
Scientific Sessions attendee

Many firsts in science and research were on display across 4,000 abstracts in 27 specialty areas presented during 800 meetings at the AHA’s 92nd annual Scientific Sessions, the world’s premier cardiovascular conference. One example: Artificial intelligence can now examine ECG test results to identify patients at higher risk of developing an irregular heartbeat or of dying within the next year, according to two preliminary studies.

And during the 45th International Stroke Conference, AHA CEO Nancy Brown announced the request for applications to the American Stroke Association-Bugher Foundation Centers of Excellence in Hemorrhagic Stroke. This addition to our research portfolio is designed to accelerate science, targeting one of the top causes of stroke morbidity and mortality. The collaboration includes at least three centers and one centralized training center.