Princeton to Lead Multi-Institution Clinical Study Examining Genetic and Social Determinants of Heart Health in Disadvantaged Children

Thursday, Aug 20, 2020

Researchers at Princeton University’s Department of Molecular Biology and the Bendheim-Thoman Center for Research on Child Wellbeing (CRCW) will receive a $9-million grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHBLI) to conduct an innovative study on heart health, genetics, and social determinants among vulnerable children in 12 cities across the United States.

The project, “Fragile Families Cardiovascular Health Follow Up Study,” will be led by principal investigator Daniel A. Notterman, a senior research scholar and lecturer with the rank of professor of molecular biology at Princeton.

“Cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death and disability for adults in the U.S. and disproportionately affects minorities and lower socioeconomic status Americans,” Notterman said. “We will perform an innovative, in-person examination of almost 2,000 youth to measure all components of cardiovascular health and early evidence of subclinical cardiovascular disease in order to better understand the role of early life adversity in the evolution of cardiovascular health and disease.”

Notterman, a pediatrician, is joined by co-principal investigator Donald Lloyd-Jones of Northwestern University, who is also president-elect of the American Heart Association. Their collaborators hail from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Vermont.

Additional co-investigators from Princeton include CRCW affiliated faculty members Noreen Goldman, Hughes-Rogers Professor of Demography and Public Affairs, and Sara McLanahan, William S. Tod Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs and co-founding Principal Investigator of the Fragile Families & Child Wellbeing Study.

The new grant will provide researchers with funding for four years, allowing for detailed measurements of early atherosclerosis, DNA methylation, and traditional cardiac risk measures such as cholesterol level. The focus of the research will be on cardiovascular health and disease among young adults participating in the Fragile Families & Child Wellbeing Study, which provides a unique lens to examine the effects of poverty, family instability, and violence on future heart and vascular disease.

The core Fragile Families & Child Wellbeing Study is a joint effort by the CRCW and Columbia University’s Population Research Center. For more than two decades, the Fragile Families Study has been following a cohort of nearly 5,000 U.S.-born children from low-income and minority families who are at a high risk of breaking up and living in poverty. The program’s longitudinal studies look at social determinants of health and how poverty can affect health outcomes for vulnerable children.

The principal investigators of the Fragile Families Study are Kathryn Edin, the William Church Osborn Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs at Princeton, and Jane Waldfogel, the Compton Foundation Centennial Professor for the Prevention of Children’s and Youth Problems at Columbia University.

The NHLBI is a component of the National Institutes of Health, which provides global leadership for research, training, and education related to the prevention and treatment of heart, lung, and blood disorders. The Institute provides grants to researchers in a wide range of fields related to promoting public health.

Original article written by Bianca Ortiz-Miskimen ‘22.