Lerner Research Institute News

Read about the latest advances from Lerner Research Institute scientists, including new findings, grant awards, innovations and collaborations.

$12M Grant to Study Gut-Heart Disease Link


In the past decade, researchers have begun to uncover the vastly complex interactions between the gut microbiome and human health. In particular, recent landmark studies from Cleveland Clinic have demonstrated a critical link between microbial pathways and the development of cardio-metabolic diseases. Lerner Research Institute’s Stanley Hazen, MD, PhD, is a pioneer in the study of the microbiome’s role in heart disease and was recently awarded more than $12 million from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to pursue further studies in that vein.

Dr. Hazen and his collaborators, J. Mark Brown, PhD; Zeneng Wang, PhD; Lynn Hajjar, PhD; and Joe DiDonato, PhD, on the granted projects will explore the concept that gut microbes act as a key endocrine “organ” that converts digested nutrients into chemical signals that function like hormones, creating physiological changes in the human host. The researchers will focus on specific novel pathways linked to atherosclerosis, thrombosis and obesity, as well as the participation of specific gut microbe-driven pathways in enhanced susceptibility to cardiovascular and metabolic disease.

The new research program is the one of the first Program Project grants funded by NIH focused on the gut microbiome, a rapidly growing field that shows numerous links to human health and disease.  The program will consist of three specialized projects and four supporting cores. The projects will explore in vivo how newly identified gut microbial pathways affect thrombosis and atherosclerosis, how microbial metabolites act like hormones to drive disease in a high-fat environment, and will identify specific microbial genes and metabolites that are responsible for enhancing cardiovascular disease. The three projects will be led by Drs. Hazen and Brown of the Lerner Research Institute and Michael Fischbach, PhD, of Stanford University.  The four supporting cores will be led by Drs. Hazen and Brown as well as Drs. Wang and Hajjar, also of the Lerner Research Institute.

“We are excited that our research has potential for improving human health,” Dr. Hazen said. “This is a critical area of research that we are only beginning to understand.”

Dr. Hazen is director of Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Microbiome & Human Health. He also chairs the Lerner Research Institute Department of Cardiovascular & Metabolic Sciences and is co-section head of Preventive Cardiology & Rehabilitation in the Miller Heart & Vascular Institute of Cleveland Clinic. He also holds the Jan Bleeksma Chair in Vascular Cell Biology and Atherosclerosis.

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