Jeffrey L. Ardell MD, FAHAProfessor of Medicine/Cardiology; Professor of Anesthesiology; Founding Director, UCLA Neurocardiology Research Program of Excellence; Co-Director, UCLA Cardiac Arrhythmia Center, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California
The cardiac nervous system, composed of the intracardiac ganglia, intrathoracic extracardiac ganglia, spinal cord, brainstem, and higher centers, coordinates regional cardiac function on a beat-to-beat basis. Globally, the cardiac nervous system is optimized to handle physiological stressors (e.g. orthostatic changes, exercise, and thermal stress). However, it has not evolved a mechanism to adequately deal with catastrophic events such as myocardial infarction and the longer-term evolution of congestive heart failure. Imbalances within this neural network lead to excessive and stochastic activity, and underlie the mechanisms responsible for arrhythmias and heart failure. The dynamic interplay between the cardiac nervous system and heart is the cornerstone for the emerging field of Neurocardiology; one that can be leveraged to novel therapeutics.
Dr. Ardell is recognized as one of the founding fathers in Neurocardiology. His research program spans preclinical to clinical translation, single cell to awake subjects, small animal to man. He has published over 140 peer-reviewed papers in the field of Neurocardiology, jointed edited two books on Neurocardiology (Armour and Ardell), and maintains multiple active grants from the NIH.
The UCLA Neurocardiology Research Program of Excellence was formed in July of 2014 when Dr. Ardell assumed the role of founding director. It was implemented as an interdisciplinary collaboration among internationally recognized experts in their respective fields. This program was developed based on the recognition that autonomic dysregulation is central to evolution of cardiac pathology. Its objective is to 1) mechanistically evaluate the dynamic interplay in heart/brain interactions, especially during the progression of cardiac disease; and 2) to develop innovative approaches to modify input/output/processing function at different levels of the cardiac neuraxis that will ultimately lead to therapy that mitigates the evolution of specific cardiac diseases. Our work has demonstrated that targeting select elements within this neural network can lead to efficacious results in select cardiac disease states, including atrial arrhythmias, ventricular arrhythmias, myocardial infarction, and congestive heart failure. With appropriate neuromodulation therapy, myocytes are rendered stress resistance, autonomic responsiveness for control of the heart is preserved, and the potential for fatal arrhythmias is reduced.