Team researching puzzling cardiac disease receives American Heart Association funding

Two women standing.
Jennifer Jordan, Ph.D, left, and Jordana Kron, M.D., are working on a new treatment for sarcoidosis, an inflammatory condition that can lead to cardiac failure when it affects the heart. (Photo by Thomas Kojcsich, University Marketing)

The American Heart Association has awarded a 2019 Collaborative Sciences Award to a team of Virginia Commonwealth University researchers investigating a new treatment for cardiac sarcoidosis, an inflammatory condition that can lead to heart failure.

Jordana Kron, M.D., an associate professor in the VCU School of Medicine and a cardiologist at the VCU Health Pauley Heart Center, is leading the study.

Sarcoidosis has no cause or cure and affects people of all ages throughout the world. Once considered a rare disease, the inflammatory condition now affects about 40 in every 100,000 African Americans in the U.S. It most commonly affects the lungs, but can involve almost any organ system including the skin, eyes, joints and heart. Cardiac involvement occurs in up to 25% of patients with sarcoidosis in other organs.

The $750,000 AHA award over three years is in addition to a $50,000 Pauley Pilot Research Grant that Kron received in April to investigate the new treatment protocol. The study evaluates the efficacy and safety of using an interleukin-1 blockade to treat patients who present with cardiac sarcoidosis. The study is the first of its kind to explore the new treatment.

Kron is joined in the study by Antonio Abbate, M.D., a cardiology professor at the VCU School of Medicine; William Gregory Hundley, M.D., director of the Pauley Heart Center; and Jennifer Jordan, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the VCU College of Engineering’s Department of Biomedical Engineering and director of the Cardiovascular MRI Core Lab at the Pauley Heart Center.