A consortium directed by UCLA’s Dr. Kalyanam Shivkumar has received a three-year, $8.6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to map the heart’s nervous system, according to a UCLA release published on December 22, 2016. The group’s goal: To conduct research that leads to new ways to treat cardiovascular disease by targeting nerves in the heart’s nervous system. More than 800,000 people in the U.S. die each year from cardiovascular diseases such as heart failure, arrhythmia, and hypertension. These problems are often linked to the autonomic nervous system, the part of the nervous system that signals the heart to beat and controls breathing, digestion, and other body processes that typically happen without conscious effort. Researchers believe that modulating those electrical signals holds promise as a way to treat heart failure and other common cardiovascular problems. “Understanding the nervous system’s control of the heart is such a complex problem that it requires a collaborative approach, and we’re pleased that so many experts are coming together for this initiative,” said Dr. Shivkumar, the study’s lead investigator and Director of the UCLA Cardiac Arrhythmia Center and Electrophysiology Programs. “Our goal is to precisely map the heart’s anatomy and code the function of the nerves that control the heart from a very basic level all the way to clinical studies in humans.” UCLA is one of seven institutions participating in the project. Principal investigators at the other universities are Dr. Viviana Gradinaru of Caltech, Dr. Stephen Liberles of Harvard University, Dr. Charless Fowlkes of UC Irvine, Dr. Irving Zucker of the University of Nebraska Medical Center, Dr.
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