Winter 2019

Boosting Heart Health

The 20-year-old Molecular Cardiology Research Institute boasts several scientific breakthroughs.

By Courtney Hollands

The Molecular Cardiology Research Institute (MCRI) at Tufts Medical Center—established in 1998 to advance understanding of cardiovascular diseases, identify new clinical strategies, and train the next generation of cardiovascular scientists—just celebrated its twentieth anniversary. “It’s a very exciting time,” said executive director Iris Jaffe, also the Elisa Kent Mendelsohn Professor of Molecular Cardiology at the School of Medicine. “Our goal has always been to understand fundamental mechanisms of heart and vascular function and disease, and then translate that into advances in patient care—with twenty years of progress, that’s what we’re doing now.” Take a spin through just a few of the center’s scientific breakthroughs through the years.

MCRI investigators discovered that the heart and blood vessels have molecular receptors needed to respond to estrogen, pioneering the field of estrogen action on the cardiovascular system and leading to safer, more effective hormone therapies for women.

MCRI researchers have made substantial contributions to our understanding of the mechanisms leading to heart failure, the leading cause of hospitalization, and identified multiple new drug targets now in development.

MCRI investigators uncovered that female and
male blood vessels respond differently to risk factors including obesity, high blood sugar, or high cholesterol. How blood vessels respond contributes to the development of heart attacks and strokes— suggesting that treatments to prevent the effects of the obesity epidemic may need to be personalized.

Up next
Preclinical MCRI studies showed that when a blocked artery is causing a heart attack, implanting a pump while delaying opening the artery reduces heart attack size. A recent clinical trial demonstrated this to be safe in humans and paves the way for a randomized trial to determine if this discovery could fundamentally change the way heart attacks are treated.

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