By AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION NEWS

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Five research programs are receiving a total of $561,798 to fund congenital heart defect research, the American Heart Association and The Children’s Heart Foundation announced Tuesday.

About 40,000 infants are affected by congenital heart defects each year in the United States, and one in four of those affected require invasive treatment in the first year of life. Research is helping these children live longer, healthier lives, according to the organizations.

“We are committed to working with The Children’s Heart Foundation to fund these important research projects to secure healthier futures for babies born with congenital heart disease,” said AHA CEO Nancy Brown. “Innovations in research drive our work to improve the health of all Americans.”

The grants have been awarded to five research teams:

  • Jack Rubinstein, M.D., at the University of Cincinnati is testing whether a drug long used to treat gout targets a receptor in the heart and improves cardiac function in children with single ventricle physiology, where only one of the heart’s two ventricles functions properly.
  • Jesse Davidson, M.D., with the University of Colorado Anschutz School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital Colorado, is using animals to study whether a naturally occurring protein called alkaline phosphatase might help protect the lungs during surgery on children with heart defects.
  • Anushree Agarwal, M.D., at the University of California, San Francisco, is using a large outpatient claims database of adults with congenital heart disease to get an estimate of the burden of medical diseases and the use of health care to improve survivors’ quality of care and outcomes.
  • Ramak Khosravi, M.D., at Yale University is creating a new “replacement conduit” for children and adults who suffer from heart disease and require surgery. These arterial grafts, which are made from cheaper, more widely available biodegradable polymers, are over time replaced by the patient’s own cells.
  • Alexander Guzzetta of the University of Chicago is investigating a genetic network controlled by a signaling pathway responsible for initial construction of the cardiovascular system. A better understanding of the genes is crucial to uncovering the basis for many forms of congenital heart disease.

“We are honored and excited to continue our research funding partnership with the American Heart Association,” said William Foley, executive director of The Children’s Heart Foundation. “Through this collaboration and our ongoing commitment to research focused on congenital heart defects, we strive to make a lasting impact in the lives of those with CHDs.”

In 2014, the AHA and CHF established the Congenital Heart Defect Research Awards to fund $2.5 million in CHD research grants through 2016. In November 2015, the organizations expanded their funding project, earmarking an additional $20 million for CHD research over five years.

Applications for the next round of CHD funding can be submitted online.