The Cardiovascular Research Institute (CVRI) has systematically pursued a strategy to establish a Center of Excellence that integrates leading-edge discovery science with a mission-based focus on addressing health disparities in the minority communities MSM serves. Over the course of the past ten years, tremendous progress has been made toward fulfilling the vision of creating a multi-disciplinary portfolio incorporating basic, translational, clinical and population science. The innovative and compelling research projects below are some highlights that have advanced the development of CVRI into a preeminent minority serving institution Center of Excellence.
Using P50 funding and funding from the Cardiovascular Chair, Dr. Taylor has initiated an electronic cohort to develop new technology and mechanisms for capturing data from patients in real-time. Specifically, this cohort seeks to take advantage of wearables, cellphones, and the internet to enroll a greater number of participants and gather greater amounts of data, outside of the clinical setting. In doing so, we can elucidate trends and develop a deeply textured picture of health and human lives. With CVRI at the forefront, MSM will become a leader in terms of developing access to tools for researchers, while ensuring that said tools are “acceptable” (ie. user-friendly, sticky, and exciting) for study target groups.
CVRI launched the e-cohort in collaboration with Emory University and Georgia Tech.The program has another unique element, which brings job training and opportunities to young people ages 18-29 who have a high school diploma but no undergraduate degree. This pipeline program is being conducted in partnership with local organizations to recruit urban youth in Atlanta. If they have an interest and show a natural aptitude for coding and development, they can enroll in the Tech Hire Program, which is an intensive one-year immersion experience where they learn to code while receiving training in work ethics, job seeking, and other critical skills. The first four graduates are currently interning in this program, and after the conclusion will enter a 1-year internship working for the e-cohort to develop apps.
The overall goal of the Morehouse-Emory Cardiovascular Center for Health Equity (MECA) project is to launch a novel multi-level investigation into the characteristics and the determinants of resilience among African Americans in the US as a source of insights that could yield effective approaches to reducing risk, disease and death. The fact that African Americans are a high risk population is well documented; however, not all African Americans have poor CV health, and often have good health despite the ethnically-determined challenges to health and vigor. These facts attest to the existence of resilience within the black population which is vastly underexplored. If successful, this work could be instrumental in moving from what we think can or should work in the African American community, to what actually does work for the those who are free of heart disease (more than 85% of blacks), free of diabetes (over 80%) free of high blood pressure (>50%).
The three projects link tightly and logically: Identification of resilience nurturing communities will allow recruitment of resilient individuals for metabolomics testing and psychosocial/clinical assessment before and after a novel computer-assisted intervention. This will allow the study of the metabolomics signatures of resilience and risk as they appear in African Americans, and the extent to which public health and molecular variables influence response to a novel clinical intervention.
The purpose of the Morehouse Cardiovascular Research Center of Excellence is to establish research centers to augment and strengthen research capabilities and resources in biomedical and behavioral research related to heart, lung, and blood diseases and disorders, with the ultimate goal to increase diversity in the biomedical and behavioral research enterprise. The ultimate goal of this program is to build a research center and move to a sustainable research infrastructure, allowing the institution and investigators to become fully competitive. Specific research examples for a Research Center include, but are not limited to:
Minority Health Genomics and Translational Research Bio-Repository (MH-GRID) Network: A Genomics Resource for Health Disparity Research The Minority Health Genomics and Translational Research Bio-Repository Database (MH-GRID) Network Infrastructure is established to facilitate the development of:
This initiative is emerging as a novel national asset that expands the diversity of bio-ancestral groups represented in genomic medicine cohorts across the US. It provides a platform for ‘virtual’ disease registries across a range of ‘health disparity conditions’, and will accelerate the translation of ‘personalized medicine’ into minority communities.
Establishment of a collaborative network platform that links minority-serving clinics with collaborative genomics/ informatics expertise across the nation (University of Washington, Emory, Stanford, Baylor). The creation of a network-based mechanism of data sharing through biorepositories and bioinformatics and A ‘use-case’ collaborative project designed to define the genetic determinants of severe hypertension in African-Americans.
Vascular Epigenome Dynamics in African-American Hypertensives
This clinical-translational research project is a natural extension of similar epigenomic analysis of hypertensive vasculopathy conducted in animal models of hypertension. This project involves a cross-disciplinary collaboration seeks to define the dynamic changes in the vascular epigenome in hypertensive African Americans in response to treatment with angiotensin receptor blockade. This study holds promise for making a link between drug responsiveness and epigenomics in different patient populations.
Morehouse-Emory Partnership to reduce CVD Disparities (METAHealth)
The METAHealth study documented that African Americans exhibit higher levels of vascular ‘stiffness’ (as measured by the augmentation index) compared to whites even after adjustment for conventional risk. The greatest disparity in vascular ‘stiffness’ was observed in the sub-group of African Americans without risk factors. The higher level of vascular dysfunction in African Americans was associated with higher levels of biomarkers of oxidative stress compared to whites.
Morehouse Training Program in Cardiovascular Sciences: NHLBI Minority Institutional Research Training Program
The intent of this award is to provide basic and population-based cardiovascular related research training to pre-doctoral and post-doctoral students. CVRI’s NIH T32 Training Program generated trainees who have continued their success at prestigious academic institutions, government agencies and industry.
Cardiovascular Health Research Program (CHRP)
This program sought to enhance a novel integrative approach to cardio and cerebrovascular disease related research by facilitating institution-wide, multi-disciplinary research collaborations within the MSM community as well as our regional partners.
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