Four internationally renowned academic medical centers have joined forces to look at what happens to cells after the heart restarts following cardiac arrest.
Virginia Commonwealth University, Beth Israel-Deaconess/Harvard University, the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Pennsylvania have created the National Post-Arrest Research Consortium (NPARC).
“Most large, single institutions treat approximately 10 to 12 patients a year. As the regional referral center for cardiac arrest treatment and Level I Trauma Center, VCU Medical Center treats about 70 or 80 post-arrest patients annually,” said Dr. Mary Ann Peberdy, professor of internal medicine and emergency medicine at VCU. “The three other consortium members are similar to us in terms of treatments and patient volumes.”
All four academic medical centers belong to a larger consortium that was created through the Clinical and Translational Research Award (CTSA) program from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
In 2010, VCU received a $20 million CTSA grant from the NIH to become part of the nationwide consortium of 60 institutions. These institutions, including VCU through its Center for Clinical and Translational Research, seek to advance science and foster partnerships to speed innovation and accelerate laboratory discoveries into treatments for patients.
“We’ve partnered with these three institutions to create a comprehensive consortium to do collaborative research on post-cardiac arrest patients to obtain a better understanding of post-arrest physiology and reperfusion injury, and to ultimately improve outcomes over hypothermia treatment alone,” said Peberdy.
Therapeutic hypothermia lowers the body temperature of a patient suffering from cardiac arrest as quickly as possible to stabilize physiological functions in an effort to reduce the damage to the brain and other vital organs. Comprehensive post-arrest treatment continues to evolve by implementing new science as soon as it is available so that patients receive the very latest in quality treatment for cardiac arrest.
“There’s so much that’s still unknown about what happens to cellular mechanisms after the heart restarts following cardiac arrest,” said Peberdy, the lead investigator of the study that is funded through a CTSA supplemental grant from the NIH. “Our four institutions are working together on a current study called Characteristics of Mitochondrial Injury after Cardiac Arrest, or COMICA.”
A variety of physiological changes occur after cardiac arrest. When the heart arrests, there’s no blood flowing through body. When the heart restarts and blood begins to flow again, it kicks off a cascade of cellular mitochondrial injury that is responsible for the subsequent death and disability in patients who initially survive a cardiac arrest.
“If we understand this process better, we may be able to improve treatment for cardiac arrest patients,” Peberdy said.
The current study is scheduled to be completed in March 2012. The newly formed NPARC is applying for additional funding from the NIH and plans to continue serial translational research projects to further the understanding of post-arrest physiology and improve outcomes after cardiac arrest.
VCU Communications and Public Relations