New and Disruptive Therapeutic Approaches to Target Fundamental Molecular Mechanisms Underlying Atrial Fibrillation

Project: Research project

Project Details


Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common heart rhythm disorder that affects >3 million Americans and is a major cause of stroke. Since AF is primarily an age-related disease, it is fast becoming an epidemic in a rapidly aging population. Unfortunately, current therapeutic approaches to AF – both pharmacological and ablation-based - are sub-optimal in patients with persistent AF. This is thought to be because current treatments do not target the fundamental, molecular mechanisms that cause AF. Over the last several years, the Arora lab at Northwestern University has worked hard to better understand the molecular mechanisms underlying AF, with the long term goal of developing a mechanism-guided therapeutic approach to AF. Work done in the Arora lab over the last several years in large animal models of AF has demonstrated that autonomic nervous system signaling, oxidative injury and CAMKII signaling are important mechanisms leading to electrical remodeling of key ion channels and excitation contraction coupling proteins in the atrium, thereby leading to the establishment of substrate for paroxysmal AF. The goal of the Arora lab over the next several years is to obtain a better understanding of the molecular mechanisms that underlie the progression of paroxysmal AF to persistent AF. We postulate that structural changes in the atrium such as new parasympathetic nerve sprouting, NLRP3 inflammasome mediated fibrosis and HDAC6 mediated breakdown of microtubules (derailed proteastasis) are key mechanisms underlying this progression of AF. We will study these mechanisms in chronically tachypaced large animal models of AF by using novel gene therapy approaches developed in our lab over the last several years. Success of these gene therapy approaches in arresting progression of paroxysmal AF to persistent AF will also demonstrate their therapeutic potential. Since our eventual goal is to develop a clinically viable gene therapy approach for persistent AF, we have recently conceived of a highly novel electroporation-based approach to facilitate trans-venous gene delivery. In addition to identifying novel gene therapy targets for AF, another major goal of this R35 proposal will be to fully develop and optimize this gene delivery approach. The next phase of the research proposed in the Arora lab is not only expected to give fresh mechanistic insights into the creation of an atrial myopathy that supports persistent AF, but is also expected to led to the development of new, potentially paradigm-shifting therapeutic approaches to AF.
Effective start/end date1/20/2212/31/28


  • National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (5R35HL161249-02)


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