U of L to lead massive heart attack research project

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - A major medical breakthrough could be discovered in Louisville, as researchers take a new beat on an old topic could help during a heart attack.

"We in Kentucky have a higher amount of heart disease than the national average," said U of L President Dr. James Ramsey.

That's something the university is trying to fix.

"This will put the spotlight on Louisville," said Dr. Roberto Bolli, who is leading the new research project.

It could go nationwide, all thanks to a nearly $10 million grant.  That will boost research for a new drug that could be crucial in those crucial moments when heart attacks strike.

"We are trying to find a drug that will protect the heart during a heart attack, which we call myocardial infarction, which is when a coronary artery becomes blocked, and a little bit of the heart becomes anoxic, and we eventually die and be replaced by a scar, making the heart weaker," Dr. Bolli said.

There are more than a million cases of that a year.

"Many of these patients will die or go on to have heart failure for the rest of their life and there is little we can offer them once the tissue is lost," Dr. Bolli said.

The new study hopes to save that precious tissue, and keep the heart beating.  It's something that's been studied for 40 years, resulting in thousands of studies that never worked.

"This as far as I can tell has been one of the most colossal failures," Dr. Bolli said.

Dr. Bolli says that's because past studies were in their own little bubble, something he and U of L will transform by teaming up with other schools, like Johns Hopkins University.

"We'll use multiple models in multiple labs and we'll test and reproduce it and whether my data can be reproduced at Emory and whether Emory's data can be reproduced in Louisville," Dr. Bolli said.

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