Advancing Heart, Lung, Blood, and Sleep Research

Annual Science Advances 2020

Advancing Heart, Lung, Blood, and Sleep Research highlights major National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) programs and partnership activities, as well as recent advances in research funded by the Institute. The information is presented by program area and showcases how the NHLBI is implementing the objectives established in the NHLBI Strategic Vision. The Science Advances are produced annually to inform individuals and organizations that share in the NHLBI's mission to prevent and treat heart, lung, blood, and sleep disorders.

In 2019, the NHLBI remained steadfast in its commitment to fueling the scientific discoveries needed to improve the health of the nation. We value the partnerships we have with our constituents that enhance our efforts to understand human biology, reduce human disease, advance translational science, and develop and sustain the next generation of researchers to support the NHLBI mission.

Along with our commitment to large-scale initiatives, we continue to prioritize investigator-initiated fundamental discovery science. These are the studies that often lead us to unanticipated findings and sometimes to entirely new lines of inquiry. For instance, NHLBI grantee Dr. Gregg Semenza has spent decades conducting fundamental science to better understand the body’s response to oxygen deprivation. His research revealed a molecular pathway that the body uses to sense oxygen levels and make appropriate adjustments to blood cell production and blood vessel remodeling. This work may lead to new therapies for heart disease, anemia, or even cancer, and it was recognized with the 2019 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

NHLBI grantee and Nobel Laureate Dr. Gregg Semenza’s work helped reveal pathways controlling blood cell production and blood vessel growth.
NHLBI grantee and Nobel Laureate Dr. Gregg Semenza’s work helped reveal pathways controlling blood cell production and blood vessel growth.

We know that many health concerns within the NHLBI’s heart, lung, blood, and sleep health portfolio disproportionately affect certain populations, and we have reaffirmed our commitment to addressing these disparities. Several cohort studies involving high-risk populations are helping us understand these disparities and reduce their impact. For example, in 2019, we launched the Risk Underlying Rural Areas Longitudinal (RURAL) Cohort Study to examine factors that might contribute to higher rates of cardiovascular, lung, and other chronic health conditions in rural communities. We also renewed our funding for the Strong Heart Study—the largest, longest-running study of cardiovascular disease in American Indians—and met with Tribal leaders to lay the groundwork for community-led projects. We are leveraging these and other cohort studies to support discovery of genomic and other complex risk factors through our Trans-Omics for Precision Medicine (TOPMed) program. In addition, we are developing a new cloud-based data science platform—known as the BioData Catalyst—to support data mining, analysis, and collaboration among researchers.

As we maintain our commitment to clinical and fundamental research, we also remain nimble enough to respond to emerging public health threats. This past year, we saw the unfolding of a crisis associated with the use of e-cigarettes, also known as vaping. In response, we have pivoted some of our resources toward enhanced support for research on the health effects of vaping.

The 2020 Annual Science Advances highlight research advances across the NHLBI portfolio over the past year, with a special focus on research that addresses one or more goals in the NHLBI Strategic Vision.

Explore the Science Advances


Heart Disease Research

Blood Disease Research

Lung Disease and Sleep Research

Translation Research and Implementation Science

Training and Career Development

View Past Annual Science Advances