National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute


The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI):

  • Provides leadership for a national program in diseases of the heart, blood vessels, lungs, and blood; sleep disorders; and blood resources.
  • Plans, conducts, fosters, and supports an integrated and coordinated program of basic research, clinical investigations and trials, observational studies, and demonstration and education projects related to the causes, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of heart, blood vessel, lung, and blood diseases, and sleep disorders conducted in its own laboratories and by scientific institutions and individuals supported by research grants and contracts.
  • Plans and directs research in development, trial, and evaluation of interventions and devices related to the prevention of diseases and disorders in the above areas and the treatment and rehabilitation of patients suffering from such conditions.
  • Conducts research on clinical use of blood and all aspects of the management of blood resources.
  • Supports research training and career development of new and established researchers in fundamental sciences and clinical disciplines to enable them to conduct basic and clinical research related to heart, blood vessel, lung, and blood diseases; sleep disorders; and blood resources through individual and institutional research training awards and career development awards.
  • Coordinates relevant activities with other research institutes and all Federal health programs in the above areas, including the causes of stroke.
  • Conducts educational activities, including development and dissemination of materials for health professionals and the public in the above areas, with emphasis on prevention.
  • Maintains continuing relationships with institutions and professional associations, and with international, national, state, and local officials as well as voluntary agencies and organizations working in the above areas.
  • Oversees management of the Women's Health Initiative.

Important Events in NHLBI History

June 16, 1948—President Harry S. Truman signed the National Heart Act, creating and establishing the National Heart Institute (NHI) in the Public Health Service (PHS) and the National Advisory Heart Council.

August 1, 1948—Surgeon General Leonard A. Scheele, by General Circular No. 36, Organization Order No. 14, established the NHI as one of the National Institutes of Health to assume responsibility for heart research, training, and administration as set forth in the National Heart Act. Intramural research projects in cardiovascular diseases and gerontology, conducted elsewhere in NIH, were transferred to the NHI. The director of the NHI was designated to lead and coordinate the total PHS heart program.

September 8, 1948—The National Advisory Heart Council held its first meeting. Dr. Paul Dudley White served as the Council's Executive Director.

January 1949—Cooperative research units were established at the University of California, University of Minnesota, Tulane University, and Massachusetts General Hospital. Pending completion of the NHI's own research organization and availability of further research facilities, the units were jointly financed by the NIH and the institutions.

July 1, 1949—The NHI intramural research program was established.

The Heart Disease Epidemiology Study at Framingham, Massachusetts, was transferred from the Bureau of State Services, PHS, to the NHI.

July 6, 1953—The Clinical Center admitted its first patient for heart disease research.

July 1, 1957—The first members of the NHI Board of Scientific Counselors began their terms. The Board was established in 1956 "to provide advice on matters of general policy, particularly from a long-range viewpoint, as they relate to the intramural research program."

February 19, 1959—The American Heart Association and the NHI presented a report to the Nation on "A Decade of Progress Against Cardiovascular Disease."

October 16, 1968—A Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to Dr. Marshall W. Nirenberg, chief of the NHI Laboratory of Biochemical Genetics, for discovering the key to deciphering the genetic code. Dr. Nirenberg was the first NIH Nobel laureate and the first Federal employee to receive a Nobel Prize.

October 26, 1968—The NHI received the National Hemophilia Foundation's Research and Scientific Achievement Award for its "medical leadership ... tremendous stimulation and support of research activities directly related to the study and treatment of hemophilia."

November 10, 1969—The NHI was renamed the National Heart and Lung Institute (NHLI), reflecting expansion of functions.

February 18, 1971—In his Health Message to the Congress, President Richard M. Nixon identified sickle cell anemia as a high-priority disease target and called for increased Federal expenditures. Subsequently, the Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) Assistant Secretary for Health and Scientific Affairs assigned the NIH and NHLI as the lead agencies responsible for coordinating a National Sickle Cell Disease Program.

June 12, 1972—HEW Secretary Elliot Richardson approved a nationwide program of hypertension information and education. The secretary appointed the Hypertension Information and Education Advisory Committee, chaired by the Director of NIH, and the Interagency Working Group, chaired by the Director of the NHLI, to implement the national effort.

July 1972—The NHLI initiated the National High Blood Pressure Education Program (NHBPEP).

July 14, 1972—Secretary Richardson approved a reorganization of NHLI, elevating the Institute to Bureau status within the NIH.

June 25, 1976—The NHLI was renamed the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), reflecting an expansion in blood-related activities within the Institute.

November 1979—The results of the Hypertension Detection and Follow-up Program, a clinical trial initiated by the NHLBI in 1971, provided evidence that systematic, aggressive treatment of hypertension saves lives.

October 1981—The NHLBI Beta-Blocker Heart Attack Trial demonstrated benefits to those in the trial who received propranolol compared with the control group.

October 1983—The NHLBI Coronary Artery Surgery Study results demonstrated that mildly symptomatic patients with coronary artery disease can safely defer coronary artery bypass surgery until symptoms worsen.

January 1984—The NHLBI Lipid Research Clinics Coronary Primary Prevention Trial established conclusively that reducing total blood cholesterol reduces the risk of coronary heart disease in men at increased risk because of elevated cholesterol levels. Each 1% decrease in cholesterol was shown to reduce heart attack risk by 2%.

April 1985—Phase I of the NHLBI Thrombolysis in Myocardial Infarction Trial found that the new thrombolytic agent recombinant tissue plasminogen activator (rt-PA) is approximately twice as effective as streptokinase in opening thrombosed coronary arteries.

October 1985—NHLBI-supported researchers Michael S. Brown and Joseph L. Goldstein received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their discoveries concerning the regulation of cholesterol metabolism.

November 1985—The NHLBI initiated the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP).

June 1986—Results of the NHLBI Prophylactic Penicillin Trial demonstrated the efficacy of prophylactic penicillin in reducing morbidity and mortality associated with pneumococcal infections in children with sickle cell disease.

March 1989—The NHLBI initiated the National Asthma Education Program. The program was later renamed the National Asthma Education and Prevention Program (NAEPP).

September 1990—Scientists from the NHLBI and the National Cancer Institute began the first gene therapy trial in a human patient, a 4-year-old girl with an inherited immune dysfunction.

January 1991—The NHLBI developed an Obesity Education Initiative to educate the public and health professionals about obesity as an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease and its relationship to other risk factors such as high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol.

June 1991—The NHLBI initiated the National Heart Attack Alert Program.

July 1991—The NHLBI Systolic Hypertension in the Elderly Program demonstrated that low-dose pharmacologic therapy of isolated systolic hypertension in those over age 60 significantly reduces stroke and myocardial infarction.

August 1991—The NHLBI Studies of Left Ventricular Dysfunction demonstrated that use of enalapril—an angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitor—causes significant reduction in mortality and hospitalization for congestive heart failure in patients with symptomatic heart failure.

January 1995—Results of the NHLBI Multicenter Study of Hydroxyurea demonstrated that hydroxyurea reduced the number of painful episodes by 50% in severely affected adults with sickle cell disease. This is the first effective treatment for adult sickle cell patients.

September 1995—Results of the NHLBI Bypass Angioplasty Revascularization Investigation demonstrated that patients on drug treatment for diabetes who had blockages in 2 or more coronary arteries and were treated with coronary artery bypass surgery had, at 5 years, a markedly lower death rate than similar patients treated with angioplasty.

May 1996—Framingham Heart Study investigators concluded that earlier and more aggressive treatment of hypertension is vital to preventing congestive heart failure.

The Treatment of Mild Hypertension Study demonstrated that lifestyle approaches, such as weight loss, a healthy eating plan, and physical activity, are crucial for reducing blood lipids in those treated for Stage I hypertension.

September 1996—Findings from the NHLBI Asthma Clinical Research Network indicated that inhalation of a beta-agonist at regularly scheduled times is safe for people with asthma but provides no greater benefit than use of the medication only when asthma symptoms occur.

November 1996—Two studies, the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) trial and the Trial of Nonpharmacologic Intervention in the Elderly, showed that lifestyle changes, such as modifying one's diet and losing weight, substantially reduce blood pressure in adults and eliminate the need for antihypertensive medication in some older patients.

January 1997—Results from the Pathobiological Determinants of Atherosclerosis in Youth program showed that atherosclerosis develops before age 20 and that high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, and cigarette smoking affect progression of atherosclerosis equally in women and men regardless of race.

May 1997—Results from the Antiarrhythmic versus Implantable Defibrillator clinical trial demonstrated that implantable cardiac defibrillators are superior to antiarrhythmic drug therapy for improving overall survival for patients with life-threatening heart arrhythmias.

October 1, 1997—The NHLBI is given responsibility for the Women's Health Initiative (WHI), a study begun in 1991 to address chronic diseases in women.

March 1999—A large clinical trial of mechanical ventilator use for intensive care patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome demonstrated that approximately 25% fewer deaths occurred among patients receiving small, rather than large, breaths of air from a mechanical ventilator.

September 2000—NHLBI-supported investigators identified a gene for primary pulmonary hypertension.

January 2001—Results of the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) Sodium Trial showed that dietary sodium reduction substantially lowers blood pressure in persons with high blood pressure; the greatest effect was seen when sodium reduction was combined with a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and low in saturated fat previously shown to lower blood pressure (i.e., the DASH diet).

April 2001—The NHLBI released international guidelines for diagnosis, management, and prevention of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

July 2001—A self-contained artificial heart was implanted in a patient for the first time.

September 2001—The NHLBI, along with the American Heart Association and other partners, launched a national Act in Time to Heart Attack Signs campaign to increase awareness of the symptoms of heart attack and the need for a fast response.

July 2002—The NHLBI stopped early the trial of estrogen plus progestin component of the WHI due to increased breast cancer risk and lack of overall benefits. The multicenter trial also found increases in coronary heart disease, stroke, and pulmonary embolism in participants on estrogen plus progestin compared to women taking placebo pills. In 2004, the WHI component evaluating estrogen-alone hormone therapy also was stopped early because the long-term risks of the medications outweighed the long-term benefits.

December 2002—Results of the NHLBI Atrial Fibrillation Follow-up Investigation of Rhythm Management Trial indicated that a strategy involving rate control rather than rhythm control may be the preferred treatment for patients with atrial fibrillation. The rate control strategy involves the use of less expensive drugs and fewer hospitalizations.

December 2002—Results from the NHLBI Antihypertensive and Lipid-Lowering Treatment to Prevent Heart Attack Trial (ALLHAT), the largest hypertension clinical trial ever conducted, showed that traditional diuretics are at least as good as newer medicines (calcium channel blockers and ACE inhibitors) to treat high blood pressure and to prevent some forms of heart disease. These findings were in addition to ALLHAT results from 2000, when researchers reported that an alpha-adrenergic blocker was less effective than the diuretic in reducing risk of some forms of CVD.

January 2003 —A study demonstrated that magnetic resonance imaging can detect heart attacks faster and more accurately than traditional methods in patients who arrive at an emergency room with chest pain.

February 2003—The NHLBI Prevention of Recurrent Venous Thromboembolism (PREVENT) trial was stopped because treatment with low-dose warfarin to prevent recurrence of the blood clotting disorders deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism was found to benefit the patients.

May 2003—The NHLBI National Emphysema Treatment Trial found that lung volume reduction surgery benefits emphysema patients who have certain clinical characteristics. The findings will help determine the Medicare coverage policy for the surgery.

July 2003—The NHLBI and Gen-Probe Corporation developed a test to screen donated blood for the West Nile virus.

March 2004—Preliminary results of the NHLBI Sudden Cardiac Death in Heart Failure study demonstrated that an implantable cardiac defibrillator can reduce the risk of death from arrhythmia for heart failure patients.

August 2004—The NHBPEP Working Group on High Blood Pressure in Children and Adolescents released The Fourth Report on the Diagnosis, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure in Children and Adolescents.

An NHLBI-funded study showed that nucleic acid-amplification testing for HIV-1 and hepatitis C virus further safeguards the nation's blood supply.

October 2004—Researchers participating in the NHLBI Asthma Clinical Research Network demonstrated that genetic differences affect how adult patients with mild asthma respond, over time, to daily doses of inhaled albuterol (a drug used for relief of acute asthma symptoms).

November 2004—Results of the NHLBI Prevention of Events with Angiotensin Converting Enzyme Inhibition study demonstrated that many coronary heart disease patients who were receiving state-of-the art therapy do not gain extra cardiovascular protection from ACE inhibitors.

December 2004—The NHLBI Stroke Prevention Trial II showed that children with sickle cell disease who receive transfusions to prevent stroke revert to high risk for stroke when transfusions are stopped. STOP II was initiated after an earlier trial demonstrated that periodic red blood cell transfusions reduce the stroke rate by 90% among high-risk children with sickle cell disease.

January 2005—The NHLBI issued new guidelines for managing asthma during pregnancy.

February 2005—NHLBI-supported scientists identified 2 genetic mutations common in individuals of African descent that are associated with a 40% reduction in LDL cholesterol.

February 2006—Results from the WHI Calcium and Vitamin D trial showed that calcium and vitamin D supplements in healthy postmenopausal women provide a modest improvement in bone mass preservation and prevent hip fractures in certain groups including older women but do not prevent other types of fractures or colorectal cancer.

May 2006—Results from the Childhood Asthma Research and Education Network showed that daily treatment with inhaled corticosteroids can reduce breathing problems in pre-school-aged children at high risk for asthma, but does not prevent them from developing persistent asthma.

The Prospective Investigation of Pulmonary Embolism Diagnosis II found that the ability to diagnose pulmonary embolism is improved when a commonly used imaging test of the chest to detect potentially deadly blood clots in the lung is complemented by an extension of the scan to the legs—where the clots typically originate—or by a standard clinical assessment.

June 2006—The Should We Emergently Revascularize Occluded Coronaries for Cardiogenic Shock (SHOCK) trial showed that treating heart attack patients who have a life-threatening complication called cardiogenic shock with emergency angioplasty or bypass surgery greatly improves their long-term survival. Improved short-term survival was reported in 1999.

July 2006—NHLBI scientists found that a hormone called brain natriuretic peptide—or BNP, which can be detected in a simple blood test—can identify patients with sickle cell disease who have developed a life-threatening complication called pulmonary hypertension. The hormone is also a predictor of death in adult sickle cell patients.

July 2006 Results from 2 randomized clinical trials demonstrated that inhaled nitric oxide administered within the first few weeks of life helps prevent chronic lung disease in some low birthweight premature infants. Moreover, when administered within 48 hours after birth, it appears to protect some premature newborns from brain injury.

September 2006—The NHLBI launched a peripheral arterial disease (PAD) awareness and education campaign entitled Stay in Circulation...Take Steps to Learn about P.A.D.

January 2007—The NHLBI launched the Learn More Breathe Better campaign to increase COPD awareness among primary care physicians and the public.  View Image.

August 2007—The NAEPP issued the Expert Panel Report 3:  Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of AsthmaFull Report 2007, an update of the latest scientific evidence and recommendations for clinical practice on asthma care. 

October 2007—NHLBI-supported researchers Mario Capecchi and Oliver Smithies were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their creation of a gene-targeting technique that allows scientists to create mice that are genetically modified to develop human diseases.

NHLBI Legislative Chronology

June 16, 1948—The National Heart Act (Public Law 80-655) authorized NHI. The act's purpose was "To improve the health of the people of the United States through the conduct of researches, investigations, experiments, and demonstrations relating to the cause, prevention, and method of diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the heart and circulation; assist and foster such researches and other activities by public and private agencies, and promote the coordination of all such researches and activities and the useful application of their results; provide training in matters relating to heart diseases, including refresher courses for physicians; and develop, and assist States and other agencies in use of the most effective methods of prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of heart diseases."

December 30, 1963—House Joint Resolution 848 (P.L. 88-254) authorized and requested the President to issue an annual proclamation designating February as American Heart Month, inviting governors of states and territories to issue similar proclamations.

May 16, 1972—The National Sickle Cell Anemia Control Act (P.L. 92-294) established a national program for diagnosis, control, and treatment of and research in sickle cell anemia. The act did not mention NHLI but had special pertinence because NHLI was designated to coordinate the National Sickle Cell Disease Program.

September 19, 1972—The National Heart, Blood Vessel, Lung, and Blood Act of 1972 (P.L. 92-423) enlarged institute authority to advance the national attack on heart, blood vessel, lung, and blood diseases. The act provided for expanded, intensified, and coordinated institute activities in accordance with a comprehensive, specified National Heart, Blood Vessel, Lung, and Blood Disease Program to be planned by the director and the Advisory Council.

It also called for establishment of prevention and control programs; development of 15 new centers for basic and clinical research, training, demonstration, and prevention programs for heart, blood vessel, and blood diseases; and development of 15 such centers for chronic lung diseases.

June 25, 1976—Title I of the Health Research and Health Services Amendments of 1976 (P.L. 94-278) redesignated NHLI as NHLBI to advance the national attack on heart, blood vessel, lung, and blood diseases, and to conduct research in use of blood and blood products and in management of blood resources. The NHLBI director and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Advisory Council continue to plan the national program under the basic P.L. 92-423 provisions with some refinements.

August 1, 1977—The Biomedical Research Extension Act of 1977 (P.L. 95-83) reauthorized NHLBI, with continued emphasis on both the national program and related prevention and dissemination activities.

December 17, 1980—The Health Programs Extension Act of 1980 (P.L. 96-538) reauthorized NHLBI, with continued emphasis on both the national program and related prevention programs.

January 4, 1983—The Orphan Drug Act (P.L. 97-414 ) amended the Public Health Service Act to mandate development and support of not less than 10 comprehensive centers for sickle cell disease.

November 20, 1985—The Health Research Extension Act (P.L. 99-158) reauthorized the NHLBI, provided for the establishment of information dissemination and education programs, and provided for an Associate Director for Prevention.

September 20, and November 4, 1988—The National Bone Marrow Donor Registry (P.L. 100-436, P.L. 100-607) was established. With enactment of these authorization and appropriation measures, NHLBI was given the task of developing an implementation plan for the voluntary bone marrow registry. Responsibility for the Registry later was transferred to the Health Resources and Services Administration.

June 10, 1993—The NIH Revitalization Act of 1993 (P.L. 103-43) established a National Center on Sleep Disorders Research within NHLBI.

October 31, 1998—Section 104 of the Women's Health Research and Prevention Amendments (P.L.105-340) instructed the NHLBI director to expand and intensify research and related activities of the institute with respect to heart attack, stroke, and other CVDs in women and to collaborate with other NIH institutes.

October 17, 2002—The Children's Health Act (P.L. 106-310) mandated that the Director of NHLBI, through the Coordinating Committee of the National Asthma Education and Prevention Program, develop a Federal plan for responding to asthma and recommended ways to strengthen coordination of Federal asthma-related activities.

Biographical Sketch of NHLBI Director Elizabeth G. Nabel, M.D.

Elizabeth G. Nabel, M.D., a native of St. Paul, Minnesota, received her M.D. from Cornell University Medical College in 1981. She completed an internship and residency in internal medicine followed by a clinical and research fellowship in cardiovascular medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard University. In 1987, she joined the faculty at the University of Michigan as an Assistant Professor of Medicine and rose through the ranks, becoming Director of the Cardiovascular Research Center in 1992, Professor of Medicine and Physiology in 1994, and Chief of the Division of Cardiology in 1997. A cardiologist with extensive clinical experience, Dr. Nabel has had a distinguished career as a researcher. While at the University of Michigan, she became known for her research on the molecular genetics of cardiovascular diseases.

Dr. Nabel joined the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) in 1999 as the Institute’s Scientific Director of Clinical Research. In 2005, Dr. Nabel became Director of the NHLBI, where she oversees an extensive national research portfolio of basic and clinical research to prevent, diagnose, and treat heart, lung, and blood diseases. The Institute also conducts educational activities for health professionals, patients, and the general public. The NHLBI budget is approximately $3.0 billion.

Dr. Nabel has made many contributions to basic and clinical research on the pathogenesis and treatment of cardiovascular diseases. She has devoted several decades to exploring genes that contribute to vascular disease and strategies for gene transfer to benefit patients with those diseases. She has delineated the mechanisms that regulate the vascular proliferation and remodeling which lead to blood vessel blockages. Her research now focuses on the role of genetic factors in blood vessel diseases, including atherosclerosis and Hutchinson Gilford Progeria Syndrome, a rare, premature aging syndrome.

Dr. Nabel has served as a Visiting Professor at major medical centers throughout the country and delivered major lectureships in Europe and Australia. She has received numerous awards for her scientific accomplishments, including the Willem Einthoven Award from Leiden University in the Netherlands, the Amgen-Scientific Achievement Award from the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and Distinguished Achievement Awards from the Basic Cardiovascular Sciences Council and the Atherosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology Council of the American Heart Association. In 2001, she received an honorary doctorate from the University of Leuven, Belgium and in 2006 from Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, New York.

Dr. Nabel is an elected member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, the American Society of Clinical Investigation, and the Association of American Physicians, as well as a Fellow of the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology. She serves on the editorial board of many scientific journals, including being an editorial board member of the New England Journal of Medicine, past Board of Reviewing Editors for Science, and associate editor for the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

A partner on 13 patents, Dr. Nabel is the author of more than 200 scientific publications, and she has mentored more than 45 students and fellows.

NHLBI Directors

Name In Office from To
Cassius James Van Slyke August 1, 1948 November 30, 1952
James Watt December 1, 1952 September 10, 1961
Ralph E. Knutti September 11, 1961 July 31, 1965
William H. Stewart August 1, 1965 September 24, 1965
Robert P. Grant March 8, 1966 August 15, 1966
Donald S. Frederickson November 6, 1966 March 1968
Theodore Cooper March 15, 1968 April 19, 1974
Robert I. Levy September 16, 1975 June 1981
Claude Lenfant July 1, 1982 September 2, 2003
Elizabeth G. Nabel February 1, 2005 Present

NHLBI Programs

The NHLBI is organized into the Extramural Research Program, the Division of Intramural Research (DIR), the Division for the Application of Research Discoveries (DARD), the Center for Biomedical Informatics (CBI), and the Center for Population Studies (CPS).   

Extramural Research Program

NHLBI extramural research programs are implemented through 4 scientific units—the Division of Cardiovascular Diseases, the Division of Prevention and Population Sciences, the Division of Lung Diseases, and the Division of Blood Diseases and Resources—and a service unit, the Division of Extramural Research Activities. Research grants, program project grants, specialized center grants, cooperative agreements, research contracts, research career development awards, and institutional and individual national research service awards are used to support research, research training, and career development.

Division of Cardiovascular Diseases (DCVD)

The DCVD provides leadership for a national and international extramural program in cardiovascular diseases that integrates basic science and clinical research. It promotes opportunities to translate promising scientific and technological advances from discovery through preclinical studies to networks and multisite clinical trials. It designs, conducts, supports, and oversees research on the causes and prevention and treatment of diseases and disorders such as atherothrombosis, coronary artery disease, myocardial infarction and ischemia, heart failure, arrhythmia, sudden cardiac death, adult and pediatric congenital heart disease, cardiovascular complications of diabetes and obesity, and hypertension. It also supports and oversees research in vascular medicine and biology and valvular, cerebral, renal, peripheral, and other cardiovascular disorders. The DCVD fosters biotechnological research in genomics, proteomics, nanotechnology, imaging, device development, cell- and tissue-based therapeutics, and gene therapy, and in their uses as they relate to cardiovascular diseases.

The Division is organized into 5 branches and 1 office:

  • Advanced Technologies and Surgery Branch
  • Atherothrombosis and Coronary Artery Disease Branch
  • Heart Development and Structural Disease Branch
  • Heart Failure and Arrhythmias Branch
  • Vascular Biology and Hypertension Branch
  • Office of Research Training and Career Development

The Advanced Technologies and Surgery Branch conducts and manages an integrated basic and clinical research program to study innovative and developing technologies for the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of cardiovascular diseases.

The Atherothrombosis and Coronary Artery Disease Branch conducts and manages an integrated basic and clinical research program to study the etiology, pathogenesis, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of coronary artery disease and atherothrombosis.

The Heart Development and Structural Disease Branch conducts and manages an integrated basic and clinical research program to study normal and abnormal cardiovascular development. It is also responsible for overseeing research related to the etiology, pathogenesis, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of pediatric and adult structural heart disease. The Branch is a focal point for coordination of activities and development of educational materials related to clinical research on pediatric cardiovascular disease within the NHLBI and the NIH.

The Heart Failure and Arrhythmias Branch conducts and manages an integrated basic and clinical research program to study normal cardiac function and pathogenesis to improve diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of heart failure and arrhythmias.

The Vascular Biology and Hypertension Branch conducts and manages an integrated basic and clinical research program to investigate vascular biology and the etiology, pathogenesis, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of hypertension and vascular diseases.

The Office of Research Training and Career Development supports training and career development programs in cardiovascular research, offering opportunities to individuals at all educational levels, from high school students to academic faculty, including programs for individuals from diverse populations.

Division of Prevention and Population Sciences (DPPS)

The DPPS supports and provides leadership for population- and clinic-based research on the causes, prevention, and clinical care of cardiovascular, lung, and blood diseases and sleep disorders. Research includes a broad array of epidemiological studies to describe disease and risk factor patterns in populations and to identify risk factors for disease; clinical trials of interventions to prevent disease; studies of genetic, behavioral, sociocultural, and environmental influences on disease risk and outcomes; and studies of the application of prevention and treatment strategies to determine how to improve clinical care and public health. The Division also supports training and career development for these areas of research.

The Division is organized into 3 branches:

  • Clinical Applications and Prevention Branch
  • Epidemiology Branch
  • Women’s Health Initiative Branch

The Clinical Applications and Prevention Branch supports, designs, and conducts research, and supports training, on behavioral, environmental, clinical, and health care approaches to reduce occurrence and consequences of cardiovascular disease. Prevention research examines effects of interventions to slow or halt risk factor or disease development or progression. Studies examine lifestyle, nutrition and exercise, psychological and sociocultural factors, and environmental and genetic influences relevant to prevention. Clinical applications research examines approaches to improve health care delivery and patient outcomes. Studies include clinical and community trials and selected observational studies. Studies include clinical and community trials and selected observational studies.

The Epidemiology Branch supports, designs, and conducts research, and supports training, in the epidemiology of cardiovascular, lung, blood, and sleep diseases and disorders. Studies are conducted to identify temporal trends and population patterns in the prevalence, incidence, morbidity, and mortality from the diseases and include single- and multicenter observational epidemiology studies of development, progression, and treatment of cardiovascular, lung, blood, and sleep diseases and disorders. Studies identify environmental, lifestyle, physiological, and genetic risk factors for disease and risk factor development including characterization of gene/gene and gene/environment interactions. The Branch also distributes data from all eligible NHLBI studies to researchers as a national data resource and adheres to guidelines that protect participant privacy and confidentiality.

The Women's Health Initiative Branch supports clinical trials and observational studies to improve the understanding of the causes and prevention of major diseases affecting the health of women. Current studies focus on cardiovascular disease, cancer, and fractures, in collaboration with NIH’s National Cancer Institute, National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, National Institute on Aging, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, and Office of Research on Women's Health. Large multicenter observational epidemiology studies seek to identify risk markers for disease or better quantify known markers using questionnaire, clinical examination, and laboratory data. The large and long-term multicenter clinical trials test promising but unproven interventions such as hormone therapy, diet, and supplements to prevent major diseases and evaluate overall effects on health. The Branch has established an infrastructure to support the use of data and blood samples from the studies by the scientific community.

Division of Lung Diseases (DLD)

The DLD plans and directs a coordinated research program on the causes and progression of lung diseases and sleep disorders including their prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. It supports basic research, clinical trials, national pulmonary centers, technological development, and application of research findings. Activities focus on understanding the structure and function of the respiratory system, increasing fundamental knowledge of mechanisms associated with pulmonary disorders, and applying new findings to evolving treatment strategies for patients. The DLD, through the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research, also coordinates sleep research activities across the NIH, other Federal agencies, and outside organizations.

The Division is organized into 2 branches and 1 center:

  • Airway Biology and Disease Branch
  • Lung Biology and Disease Branch
  • National Center on Sleep Disorders Research

The Airway Biology and Disease Branch supports research and research training in asthma, COPD, cystic fibrosis, and airway function in health and disease. Basic research focuses on elucidating the etiology and pathophysiology of the diseases. Clinical studies focus on improving asthma management and reducing health disparities in asthma, improving COPD treatment and management, and developing genetic, pharmacologic, and nonpharmacologic (e.g., gene transfer) treatments for cystic fibrosis.

The Lung Biology and Disease Branch supports research, education, and training programs in lung cell and vascular biology; developmental biology and pediatric lung diseases; acute lung injury and critical care medicine; and interstitial lung diseases and lung immunology including pulmonary fibrosis, sarcoidosis, and pulmonary manifestations of HIV/AIDS and associated infections with emphasis on active and latent tuberculosis (TB) and drug-resistant TB. Basic research focuses on lung development and cell biology, including stem cell biology and cell-based therapies, and mechanisms of disease etiology and pathogenesis. Clinical studies focus on evaluating innovative therapies for acute lung injury and acute respiratory distress syndrome, pulmonary fibrosis, neonatal lung disease, pulmonary embolism, and pulmonary hypertension.

The National Center on Sleep Disorders Research plans, directs, and supports basic, clinical, and applied research, health education, training, and prevention research in sleep, chronobiology, and sleep disorders. It oversees developments in its program areas; assesses the national needs for research on causes, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of sleep disorders and sleepiness; and coordinates sleep research activities across the Federal government and with professional, voluntary, and private organizations.

The NHLBI sleep research program seeks to understand the molecular, genetic, and physiological regulation of sleep and the relationship of sleep disorders to cardiovascular diseases. It also supports efforts to understand the relationships of sleep restriction and sleep-disordered breathing to the metabolic syndrome, including obesity, high blood pressure and stroke, dyslipidemia, insulin resistance, and vascular inflammation.

Division of Blood Diseases and Resources (DBDR)

The DBDR plans and directs research and research training on the causes and prevention of blood diseases and disorders. Areas of interest encompass a broad spectrum of research from stem cell biology to medical management of blood diseases, with a focus on nonmalignant and premalignant processes. The DBDR has recently taken a leading role in developing cell-based therapies, combining the expertise of transfusion medicine and stem cell technology with the exploration of repair and regeneration of human tissues and biological systems. The Division also has a major responsibility to improve the adequacy and safety of the Nation's blood supply.

The Division is organized into 3 branches:

  • Blood Diseases Branch
  • Thrombosis and Hemostasis Branch
  • Transfusion Medicine and Cellular Therapeutics Branch

The Blood Diseases Branch supports research and research training in nonmalignant disorders of the hematopoietic system including sickle cell disease and thalassemia. Attention is focused on reducing morbidity and mortality caused by the disorders and preventing their occurrence. The Branch oversees a program of Comprehensive Sickle Cell Centers, which collectively form a sickle cell disease clinical research network—and which individually conduct basic and clinical research—and provide state-of-the-art patient care, educational activities for patients and health professionals, community outreach, and genetic counseling services. A thalassemia clinical network is evaluating new treatment strategies and ensuring that research findings on optimal management of the disease are rapidly disseminated to practitioners and health care professionals.

The Thrombosis and Hemostasis Branch supports research and research training in hemostasis, thrombosis, and endothelial cell biology. It oversees a comprehensive program of basic research, clinical studies, and technology development focusing on understanding the pathogenesis of both arterial and venous thrombosis in order to improve the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of thrombosis in heart attack, stroke, and peripheral vascular diseases. The Branch also supports research on bleeding disorders (e.g., hemophilia and von Willebrand Disease) and immune disorders (e.g., idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura, and systemic lupus erythematosus).

The Transfusion Medicine and Cellular Therapeutics Branch plans and directs research and research training in transfusion medicine, stem cell biology and disease, and clinical cellular medicine. It supports research on the use, safety, and availability of blood and blood components for transfusion and cellular therapies. The Branch also develops programs for basic and clinical research related to normal and abnormal cellular biology and pathology. In addition, it collaborates with governmental, private sector, and international organizations to improve the safety and availability of the global supply of blood and blood components.

Division of Extramural Research Activities (DERA)

The DERA provides a number of services to the Institute. For example, it represents the Institute on overall NIH committees on extramural program policies and oversees compliance with such policies within the NHLBI. It also provides grant and contract management services to the Institute's program divisions, and provides initial scientific merit review of some research grant applications (e.g., applications submitted in response to an Institute Request for Applications, RFA). In addition, the DERA coordinates the Institute's Committee Management Activities and the meetings of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Advisory Council.

Examples of FY 2007 Research Initiatives

In FY 2007, the NHLBI initiated programs to:

  • Establish a network to develop, conduct, and evaluate multiple cell-based therapies for the management of cardiovascular diseases.
  • Establish a cardiovascular research network to increase scientific knowledge of cardiovascular disease in the context of community-based health care delivery.
  • Create multidisciplinary career development programs in genetics and genomics of lung diseases that will equip new investigators with the knowledge and skills to become independent investigators.
  • Foster collaborative research between basic scientists and clinical investigators that will lead to cell-based therapies for lung diseases. 
  • Conduct longitudinal studies to characterize HIV-associated lung infections and their complications and consequences.
  • Determine the efficacy of long-term oxygen treatment for improving survival in patients with COPD and less-than-severe hypoxemia at rest. 
  • Establish centers that will conduct multidisciplinary research on COPD and promote rapid translation of basic scientific findings into clinical application for its diagnosis, treatment, and prevention.
  • Conduct multidisciplinary research to answer clinically relevant questions related to the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of pulmonary vascular disease.   
  • Establish a training program for curriculum development and implementation in pediatric transfusion medicine and attract young investigators into the field.
  • Support refinement and manufacture of HIV-SELECTEST enzyme-linked immunoabsorbent assay kits and a Rapid HIV-1 Antibody Test for distribution to national and international laboratories conducting Phase II/III HIV-1 vaccine trials.
  • Develop, implement, and evaluate short courses in computational modeling for biomedical researchers and clinical scientists. 
  • Support genome-wide association studies to identify genetic components related to heart, lung, and blood disorders and their risk factors.
  • Establish a clinical coordinating center for the NHLBI Gene Therapy Resource Program. 
  • Determine the epidemiology, pathophysiology, and clinical aspects of anemia in the elderly.
  • Encourage innovative, high-risk strategies based on nanotechnology to diagnose and treat heart, lung, and blood diseases and sleep disorders. 
  • Study the interaction between hypertension and inflammation. 
  • Understand the factors present in elderly persons that contribute to age-related increases in thrombosis and thromboembolism. 
  • Establish a cooperative network of academic centers with cardiothoracic surgeons and their colleagues in allied specialties that will foster rigorous scientific evaluation of newer surgical techniques, technologies, and devices or innovative pharmaceutical and bioengineered products for treatment of cardiovascular disease.

Division of Intramural Research

The DIR conducts laboratory and clinical research in heart, vascular, lung, blood, and kidney diseases and develops technology related to cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases.

The DIR is organized into 4 centers and 4 branches:

  • Biochemistry and Biophysics Center
  • Cell Biology and Physiology Center
  • Genetics and Development Biology Center
  • Immunology Center
  • Cardiology Branch
  • Hematology Branch
  • Pulmonary Critical Care Medicine Branch
  • Vascular Medicine Branch

The Biochemistry and Biophysics Center studies the molecular basis of structure–function relationships of proteins and biologically relevant molecules. It performs state-of-the-art studies of protein structure and functional interactions, develops mathematical tools for generating models of protein structure–function relationships, elucidates mechanisms of enzyme function, and investigates relationships between protein structure–function and cell signaling pathways.

The Cell Biology and Physiology Center studies mechanisms that regulate cellular function and physiology. It evaluates mechanisms that control different molecular machines within the cytosol, including those involved in muscle contraction, and cytosolic and membrane transport processes. The Center studies cellular signaling events associated with hormone action, cytosolic trafficking, and energy metabolism; investigates the role of cellular processes on function and adaptation in whole animal model systems; and develops unique measuring devices for studying biochemical and physiological processes in intact cells, whole animals, and clinical situations.

The Genetics and Development Biology Center studies mechanisms that regulate cardiovascular development and the etiology of congenital heart anomalies and cardiovascular disease. It evaluates the function of specific genes and transcription factors in the development of the heart and other tissues, develops techniques and approaches for gene delivery and gene therapy, and investigates processes that regulate and interpret the genetic code in development and disease.

The Immunology Center studies intracellular and signaling processes involved in the activation of lymphocytes and mast cells, investigates mechanisms by which drugs and other agents result in allergic–autoimmune reactions, and applies the results to the development of diagnostic and therapeutic approaches.

The Cardiology Branch develops new diagnostic and therapeutic modalities for treatment of cardiovascular disease. It focuses on mechanistic studies and clinical protocols.

The Hematology Branch investigates normal and abnormal hematopoiesis. It focuses on bone marrow failure, viral infections of hematopoietic cells, gene therapy of hematologic and malignant diseases, bone marrow transplantation, and mechanisms of immunologically mediated syndromes like graft-versus-host disease and autoimmune diseases.

The Pulmonary Critical Care Medicine Branch studies the lung and cardiovascular system to define, at a molecular level, normal function and disease. It focuses on understanding biochemical and immunologic events involved in intra- and intercellular communication and organ function.

The Vascular Medicine Branch conducts research on the lung and vasculature directed at defining, on a molecular, biochemical, and functional level, normal physiological function and novel mechanisms of disease. It focuses on translational study and therapeutic modulation of physiological functions to mitigate vasculopathy in lung and heart disease.

Division for the Application of Research Discoveries

The DARD leads national and international programs of research translation, dissemination, and utilization to accelerate the application of science advances in the prevention, detection, and treatment of cardiovascular, lung, and blood diseases. Through knowledge networks, education programs, community outreach, conferences, and symposia, the DARD fosters communication and collaboration among researchers, clinical care providers, public health practitioners, patients, and the public in an effort to connect research and practice in a continuous learning loop. Reaching out to people in high-risk, low-income, and minority communities to eliminate health disparities is a high priority.

The DARD is organized into 3 branches:

  • Research Translation Branch
  • Enhanced Dissemination and Utilization Branch
  • Health Communications and Social Marketing Branch

The Research Translation Branch fosters the rapid translation of emergent knowledge into practice by synthesizing and organizing evidence around priority diseases and conditions. It identifies gaps in knowledge that need to be addressed by future research, promotes evidence-based reviews and facilitates the development of clinical guidelines, and develops innovative tools for use in clinical and public health settings to facilitate clinical decision-making and other implementation activities. To inform future research needs and opportunities, the branch uses knowledge networks and other strategies to facilitate communication between researchers, health care professionals, and the public about the applicability, relevance, and usefulness of research efforts.

The Enhanced Dissemination and Utilization Branch collects, synthesizes, and communicates new knowledge and recommendations to foster the dissemination of research-based findings and their utilization by diverse groups, including minorities and underserved populations. The Branch provides technical assistance and information resources to enhance the dissemination efforts of NHLBI-supported researchers, and uses best-practices strategies to accelerate the introduction of evidence-based tools and education programs into community practice settings. In addition, the branch establishes community-based Enhanced Dissemination and Utilization Centers committed to applying and evaluating the impact of cutting-edge research advances in multiple settings in an effort to achieve the goals of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Healthy People Program and to eliminate health disparities.

The Health Communications and Social Marketing Branch supports the communication of health information to health care professionals and the public. Using results of the latest communications and social marketing research, the branch plans health communications strategies and develops consumer messages and public education campaigns. It develops and maintains media relations and communicates research results and educational messages through the media. In addition, the branch operates the NHLBI Health Information Center to respond to professional and public inquiries and to develop and distribute publications and deliver on-line information to health care providers and the public.

Center for Biomedical Informatics

The CBI provides an integrated informatics and knowledge environment for the NHLBI. It is organized into 3 branches:

  • Information Technology (IT) Resources Branch
  • Applications Development and Support Branch
  • Planning, Architecture, Communication, and Evaluation Branch

The IT Resources Branch is responsible for ensuring that NHLBI personnel have continuous access to appropriate network resources needed to carry out the Institute's mission. It oversees the installation and maintenance of personal computers, peripherals, and other computing hardware; assists individuals in their use of a defined collection of productivity tools; and ensures that all computer and user practices are compliant with NIH standards for information security.

The Applications Development and Support Branch provides or develops software engineering methods to address the high-priority needs of the Institute. The branch keeps abreast of the evolving IT field to ensure that the Institute is current in the state-of-the-art of IT applications. It designs methods to allow the outside community to be able to access existing IT resources and educates users to take maximum advantage of these applications.

The Planning, Architecture, Communication, and Evaluation Branch relies on a network of constituency groups to collect information relevant to the planning of all IT activities for the Institute. Activities of the branch include developing an information architecture; evaluating deployed IT systems; designing methods to communicate with the NHLBI community, both internal and external; and developing methods to manage information relevant to the Institute's mission such as procedural knowledge (e.g., administrative practices) and scientific knowledge created by the Institute's programs.

Center for Population Studies

The CPS conducts research using data from the NHLBI Framingham Heart Study to advance understanding of the etiology, natural history, and time-period trends in heart, lung, and blood diseases and sleep disorders from various disciplines. It develops and oversees training in population research in heart, lung, and blood disorders; conducts collaborative scientific research with the Jackson Heart Study and other NHLBI population studies; and performs state-of-the-art research on heart, lung, blood, and sleep conditions with attention to early-onset diseases, their biochemical milieu, and genetic susceptibility.

This page was last reviewed on February 8, 2008 .
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