FIRST LOOK: Atrial Fibrillation: Causal Basis and Personalized Risk Assessment

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Cardiac arrhythmias are a leading cause of morbidity and sudden death, and collectively constitute a substantial public health problem. We are focused on understanding the causes of cardiac arrhythmias and applying discoveries to improve outcomes in patients with these conditions. Our research spans disciplines involving human genetics, mobile health technology, and clinical trials.

A major area of our work is focused on atrial fibrillation, which develops in about one in four individuals over the course of their lifetimes. Atrial fibrillation is associated with increased risks of stroke, heart failure, dementia, and mortality, and accounts for about $26 billion in excess health care costs annually in the United States. Despite the public health importance of atrial fibrillation, its biological mechanisms remain poorly understood.

Our efforts are motivated by two critical observations. First, current treatments for atrial fibrillation are suboptimal – collectively, they have limited effectiveness, cause substantial morbidity, and are costly. Second, most individuals at risk for atrial fibrillation and related morbidity, including strokes, remain hard to identify.

Together with collaborating investigators, we have helped lead the AFGen Consortium (, an international network of investigators examining the genetic basis of atrial fibrillation. We have identified over 20 genomic loci associated with atrial fibrillation, and in doing so have identified previously unrecognized pathways involved in the development of atrial fibrillation. In ongoing work, we are studying the causal basis of atrial fibrillation, applying discoveries to estimate risk of disease in a personalized manner, leveraging the power of electronic health records to improve management of patients with atrial fibrillation, and implementing cost efficient mobile cardiac rhythm monitoring technologies to test interventions that may minimize morbidity in patients with atrial fibrillation.

For more information about Dr. Lubitz’s research, please contact Partners HealthCare Innovation by clicking here.

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