Scientists from across University of Nebraska to collaborate on translational, clinical and population research

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death and hospitalization in Nebraska, accounting for one in three deaths and totaling more loss of life than cancer and chronic lung disease combined.

That may change with a newly approved center that is focused on improving cardiovascular health in Nebraska.

The University of Nebraska Board of Regents today voted to create an interdisciplinary cardiac and vascular research center at the University of Nebraska Medical Center that will enhance basic, clinical and population research.

“Our goal is to become a national and international leader in heart and vascular disease research,” said Merry Lindsey, Ph.D., chair of UNMC’s Cellular and Integrative Physiology Department and founding director of the virtual center.

Located at UNMC, the Center for Heart and Vascular Research will bring together multi-disciplinary scientists from across the University of Nebraska to collaborate on translational, clinical and population research. Scientists will participate from such colleges as medicine, public health, nursing, pharmacy, engineering, arts and sciences and the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

“The collaborative team approach will enable us to examine heart and vasculature responses to injury or stress and apply that knowledge to develop better diagnostic tools,” Dr. Lindsey said. “It is critically important that we link research to clinical care and outreach.”

“With the recruitment of Dr. Lindsey working closely with the leadership of cardiovascular medicine, vascular surgery and cardiothoracic surgery in the College of Medicine, the College of Nursing at UNMC and researchers in other University of Nebraska campuses, we fully expect our funded research in heart and vascular disease to continue to grow,” said Jennifer Larsen, M.D., vice chancellor for research. “This center will be the umbrella for many of those programs, and signals our desire to expand this area of research going forward.”

Coordinating efforts in one overarching center, Dr. Lindsey said, will allow the university to recruit and retain funded cardiovascular research faculty and maintain a critical research mass; promote novel and innovative approaches to cardiac research questions; mentor high quality junior investigators; and commit to excellence.

The creation of interdisciplinary centers yields results, said Dele Davies, M.D., senior vice chancellor for academic affairs. “By creating a structure to intentionally bring together experts from various disciplines, we generate more robust discussions and collaborations that increase the likelihood of finding solutions that benefit Nebraskans and the world.”   

The center will complement the large heart failure and heart transplant program at UNMC’s primary clinical partner, Nebraska Medicine.

The UNMC College of Medicine and extramural research grants have committed $8 million in start-up funding for five years, including $625,000 in each of the first two years. The center’s administrative structure will be on the fifth floor of the Durham Research Center.

An internationally recognized scientific leader in cardiac physiology, Dr. Lindsey joined UNMC in February. She was trained in cardiovascular sciences at Baylor College of Medicine and Harvard Medical School, and has more than 20 years of experience with all aspects of inflammatory and fibrotic components of cardiac remodeling following myocardial infarction in several animal models and in humans.