November 29, 2023
Atrial Myopathy and Dementia

New Study Receives $4.39 Million NIH Grant to Explore the Connection between Atrial Myopathy and Dementia

Dr. Lin Yee Chen, a professor at the University of Minnesota Medical School and director of the Lillehei Heart Institute, has been granted a substantial $4.39 million research grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to investigate atrial myopathy, a heart condition that has been associated with an elevated risk of dementia and vascular brain injury.

The study has the potential to identify a previously unknown risk factor for dementia and stroke. Dr. Chen, who is also a cardiac electrophysiologist with M Health Fairview, stated that if successful, the research could lead to interventions that reduce the risk of these debilitating conditions.

Atrial myopathy affects the muscles in the upper chambers of the heart and can result in heart rhythm disturbances and compromised blood pumping efficiency. Previous studies have suggested a correlation between atrial myopathy and an increased risk of dementia, stroke, and neuroimaging markers of vascular brain damage. However, existing research has been limited due to a lack of data on individuals aged 85 and older, as well as a lack of information about how atrial myopathy evolves over time. This has hindered progress in finding effective therapies to prevent atrial myopathy and its impact on cognitive function, especially in older populations.

Dr. Chen’s project aims to characterize the progression and trajectories of atrial myopathy in older adults and explore its association with the incidence of dementia and mild cognitive impairment. The research team also intends to analyze the effects of atrial myopathy progression on neuroimaging and plasma biomarkers of dementia, while identifying specific lifestyle and molecular risk factors that contribute to the advancement of atrial myopathy.

To achieve these goals, the project will utilize the extensive data available from the well-established Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities cohort, focusing on measuring left atrial function over time to capture the trajectories of atrial myopathy progression. In addition, the team plans to conduct ambulatory heart rhythm monitoring to detect atrial fibrillation, which may help determine its contribution to the development of atrial myopathy and associated diseases.

The $4.39 million grant has been awarded for the fiscal year 2023, enabling Dr. Chen and her team to embark on this important research and potentially make significant strides in understanding and managing atrial myopathy in relation to dementia and cognitive decline.

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