Pioneer on Heart Rhythm Disorders to Discuss Research
January 11, 2007
Cardiologist Arthur J. Moss, M.D., a heart researcher whose work has changed the treatment of heart disease worldwide and saved the lives of countless patients, will discuss his research on heart-rhythm disorders and the genetics of heart disease as part of a lecture series highlighting biological and biomedical research at the University of Rochester.
Moss will speak at 4 p.m. Friday, Jan. 12, in the Case Methods Room (Room 1-9576) at the Medical Center. It’s the latest installment of the “Second Friday Science Social” lecture series geared mainly to faculty, staff and students at the University, though the general public is welcome as well.
Moss, director of the Heart Research Follow-up Program at the University of Rochester Medical Center, is an internationally recognized expert on understanding rhythm disorders of the heart. Such arrhythmias cause many of the 330,000 sudden cardiac deaths each year in the United States.
He led a landmark nationwide study that showed that an implantable cardiac defibrillator (ICD), a medical device that can shock and correct an abnormal heart rhythm, significantly reduces death rates in certain groups of patients. While these devices used to be reserved for the sickest of heart patients, Moss’ work has shown that ICDs are a preventive treatment that can save the lives of people who don’t yet suffer from arrhythmia problems but have several risk factors for sudden death.
The work has resulted in a major change in the treatment of heart disease across the nation. ICDs are now approved as a preventive measure for many patients. Now that many patients live who might otherwise have died, doctors are seeing a swell in the ranks of patients who subsequently suffer from other forms of heart disease, such as heart failure. Research like that done by Moss is a major reason why heart disease is perceived more and more as a chronic disease.
Moss is also an expert on the genetics of heart disease who was tracking the many genes that affect the heart more than a decade before the Human Genome Project was a glimmer in anyone’s eye. Much of his work has focused on Long QT syndrome, a lethal heart disorder characterized by sudden death from an abnormal heart rhythm. Long QT often kills otherwise healthy, active children and teenagers, causing some of the most jarring, unexpected deaths that society witnesses.
In 1979 Moss established the International Registry for Long QT patients, which tracks more than 5,000 families worldwide for evaluation, treatment and monitoring of this rare genetic condition. Using his registry, researchers have been able to track down more than 300 genetic mutations involving seven genes that cause versions of Long QT. Moss and colleagues have used the registry to identify many of the risk factors that determine which people with Long QT are most at risk for sudden death, and last year they showed that common blood pressure medications can reduce the risk of death by two-thirds for some people who have the disease.
Moss, professor of Medicine and also of Community and Preventive Medicine, received his bachelor’s degree from Yale and his medical degree from Harvard. He joined the University faculty in 1962, soon after taking part in a project to monitor the health of the first U.S. citizens sent into space – the astronauts of NASA’s Mercury Program.