Heart Disease

Heart disease encompasses many diseases of the heart and blood vessels, such as high blood pressure, heart attacks, angina pectoris (chest pain or discomfort caused by a reduced blood supply to the heart muscle), stroke and heart failure. Coronary artery disease (heart attack and angina pectoris) is usually caused by atherosclerosis, the narrowing of the coronary arteries due to fatty build ups of plaque.

Cardiovascular disease affects 1 in 3 adult AmericansHeart disease (cardiovascular disease) is the single leading cause of death in America today. It affects approximately 81 million people in the United States. In addition, more than 6 million Americans are now living with heart failure, a number that is expected to double within the next decade. Current interventions to prevent and treat heart disease focus on improving the blood supply to the heart muscle, but there is no available treatment, short of a heart transplant, to replace the heart muscle cells that have been lost during a heart attack.


Research Advances 

Researchers of the Matrix Biology and Immunology Programs at BRI are working together to understand how disregulation of the immune system (autoimmune disease) contributes to cardiovascular disease. Such multidisciplinary collaborations between scientists are a hallmark of research at BRI. Through these BRI and Virginia Mason programs, investigators are studying new ways to prevent, cure and treat heart problems. Research to fight heart disease includes:

Clinical Trials 

Working in partnership with Virginia Mason Medical Center, BRI conducts clinical research trials in cardiovascular disease. Our scientists are dedicated to discovering new treatments and approaches to cardiovascular disease. 

Translational Research 

Extracellular matrix is the natural substance that holds cells together in every tissue. Researchers in BRI’s Matrix Biology Program are developing biocompatible, extracellular matrix-based biomaterials for the replacement of tissues lost to disease or trauma, which includes heart diseases such as atherosclerosis and myocardial infarction (heart attack). In addition to development of novel biomaterials, Matrix Biology Program scientists are studying the role that specific extracellular matrix components play in obesity, atherosclerosis, heart attack, inflammation, and wound healing. The goal of these projects is to improve the repair and regeneration of cardiac muscle and native blood vessels of the heart, create engineered blood vessel replacements, and better understand how macromolecules of the extracellular matrix organize tissue structure and regulate cell behavior in health and disease.

Laboratory Research 

BRI’s laboratory research is directed toward an improved understanding of the mechanisms of blood vessel growth and heart/vascular tissue regeneration that will lead to the development of novel therapies for heart disease. Research projects include studies to reverse atherosclerotic plaque development, repair heart muscle tissue damaged after a heart attack, construct engineered replacements for blood vessels, improve saphenous vein coronary artery bypass grafts, and characterize extracellular matrix macromolecules (proteins, proteoglycans) that participate in inflammation and wound repair.

Learn more about BRI's clinical trials.