Groundbreaking Clinical Trial to Study Overweight Individuals with Persistent Atrial Fibrillation

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A groundbreaking clinical trial at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine could lead to better outcomes for patients with persistent atrial fibrillation, a dangerous irregular heartbeat. The new study will examine whether taking the drug Liraglutide to reduce fatty epicardial adipose tissue around the heart muscle improves the effectiveness of ablation, a procedure that destroys the abnormal heart tissues that trigger the arrhythmia.

Jeffrey J. Goldberger, M.D., M.B.A., reviews an echocardiogram study with a patient.

“Our goal is to find more effective treatments for atrial fibrillation (AFib), a serious condition that can lead to strokes or other significant problems,” said Jeffrey J. Goldberger, M.D., M.B.A., chief of the Cardiovascular Division. He and Gianluca Iacobellis, M.D., Ph.D., professor of clinical medicine in the Division of Endocrinology, are leading the clinical trial, which is funded by a $2 million grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health.

Patients with persistent AFib who are overweight (with a body mass index of 27 or more) may be eligible to participate in the new study, according to Dr. Goldberger.

“We plan to enroll 60 patients with persistent atrial fibrillation who have elected to undergo catheter ablation,” he said. “Half of the participants will receive the diabetes drug Liraglutide, prior to undergoing ablation, and the results will be measured a year later.”

Liraglutide has been shown to dramatically reduce epicardial fat, which can release enzymes or other substances that promote inflammation or the thickening of the cardiac wall.

“This clinical study of Liraglutide in combination with catheter ablation for AFib will provide foundational data that will be critical for the further testing and validation of this novel approach, one that could potentially substantially improve outcomes for patients with AFib,” Dr. Goldberger said.

Atrial fibrillation is the most common arrhythmia, affecting more than 2 million people in the U.S. with projections that 8 to 12 million people will be affected by 2050. With AFib, the heart’s two upper chambers (atria) contract very fast and irregularly. This causes blood to pool in the heart, where it may form a clot that travels to the brain, causing a stroke.

For patients with dangerous irregular heartbeats, the Center for Atrial Fibrillation at UHealth – the University of Miami Health System and the Miller School offers a full array of diagnostic tools and treatments, including rhythm control medications, blood thinners and ablation. For information about the clinical trial, call 305-243-3845.

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