New research center aims to study the impact of everyday life stress on heart health

A team of UC Davis Health scientists are establishing a new research center to study the impact of stress from everyday life on heart health in underserved communities.

New research center aims to study the impact of everyday life stress on heart health​​​​​​​

Image Credit: UC Davis Health

The American Heart Association is funding the new UC Davis PRECISE Center (Psychosocial stRessors and Exposomics on CV health In underServed multiEthnic populations in Northern, California). It’s part of a $13 million initiative to study the impact of chronic stress on cardiovascular disease and health.

The 2020 Stress in America survey from the American Psychological Association concluded that Americans “are facing a national mental health crisis that could yield serious health and social consequences for years to come.”

Stress is a significant risk factor for cardiovascular disease and chronic psychosocial stress has been linked to the development of atrial fibrillation, coronary heart disease and sudden cardiac death.

“Psychosocial stress is a significant risk factor for cardiovascular disease, but the mechanisms of chronic psychosocial stress on cardiovascular disease remain incompletely understood, making it difficult to design preventive or therapeutic strategies,” said Nipavan Chiamvimonvat, associate chief for research in Cardiovascular Medicine and the co-director of the UC Davis Cardiovascular Research Institute. “Given the disproportionately high burden of psychosocial stress among minorities and underserved populations, evaluating the association of chronic stressors with cardiovascular disease is of paramount importance.”

About the UC Davis PRECISE Center

The center will be led by Chiamvimonvat, with three interdisciplinary projects. Martin Cadeiras, medical director for the Advanced Heart Failure, Heart Transplantation and Mechanical Circulatory Support Device Program and Javier E. López, associate professor of Cardiovascular Medicine and medical director of Cardiac Rehabilitation will be leading Project 1 to recruit a diverse group of participants with different backgrounds, various psychosocial stress levels and socioeconomic status from underserved populations in California. They will investigate how societal, environmental, and biological factors may cause stress that can impact heart health.

Also on the team is Imo Ebong, associate professor of Advanced Heart Failure, Heart Transplantation and Mechanical Circulatory Support Device Program and Julie Bidwell, assistant professor at the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing School of Nursing.

“UC Davis Health has one of the most diverse patient populations in the country, with a large representation of Latinos from the California Central Valley,” Cadeiras explained. “Therefore, the overarching goal of our study is to determine the effects of chronic psychosocial stress and its consequences on cardiovascular disease development among underserved multiethnic populations.”

Projects 2 and 3, led by Xiaodong Zhang, associate professor in Cardiovascular Medicine, Chao-Yin Chen, professor of Pharmacology,  as well as Padmini Sirish and Phung Thai, assistant researchers and early stage investigators in Cardiovascular Medicine, will use innovative animal models to study how the constellation of environmental and social stressors such as noise, overcrowding, and sleep disruption, impact cardiovascular function.

The team will also use advanced omics analyses, led by Bruce Hammock, distinguished professor in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, as well as innovative computational biology, led by Leighton Izu, professor of Pharmacology and David Liem, research scientist in Cardiovascular Medicine, to generate a “functional connectome” across basic science and clinical projects that will uncover key patterns in signaling pathways between stress and heart health, providing the overarching integration and insights that are greater than the individual project.

“Overall, we are hoping to identify clusters of chronic psychosocial stress and study how these clusters affect multiethnic underserved populations and individuals,” Chiamvimonvat said. “We will determine the overall effects of chronic psychosocial stress clusters at the population level, within individual patients, and in close collaboration with an animal model of chronic psychosocial stress.”

Synergy of the multidisciplinary team

The UC Davis PRECISE Center is comprised of a multidisciplinary investigative team from UC Davis in partnership with the California State University, Sacramento, a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) and Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institution (AANAPISI). Collaborators from Sacramento State include educational experts, psychology and social scientists, clinical psychologist, and environmental scientists.

“This important work provides an opportunity to build upon the partnership between Sacramento State and UC Davis Health,” said Dianne Hyson, dean of the College of Social Sciences & Interdisciplinary Studies at Sacramento State. “The integrated and multifaceted studies extend our ongoing work in underserved communities and will add to the understanding of their disparate risk and related cardiovascular outcomes.”

It will, furthermore, advance community partnerships and support their interdependent roles as significant drivers for innovation, economic and cultural growth.”

Javier E. López, Associate Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine and Medical Director of Cardiac Rehabilitation

The team will also collaborate with Valley High School Health TECH Academy, directed by Rodney Black.

“Nothing creates purpose and hope better than giving underserved students the ability to do something meaningful for their underserved community,” said Black.

UC Davis team members are from five different departments from four different schools and colleges (School of Medicine, School of Nursing, School of Veterinary Medicine, and College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences).

“This project aligns so well with the mission of UC Davis Health, as it is grounded in equity and provides unparalleled care across the region to transform lives and communities,” said Thomas Smith, chief of cardiovascular medicine. “I applaud the American Heart Association for this investment to study the impacts of chronic stress on cardiovascular health, providing us the opportunity to impact cardiovascular disease prevention and treatment in our most vulnerable populations.”


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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