(CLOSED) Strategically Focused Research Network (SFRN) on Biologic Pathways of Chronic Psychosocial Stressors on Cardiovascular Health

Sponsor Name: 
American Heart Association
Description of the Award: 

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death in the United States, accounting for over 870,000 deaths in the United States in 2019. An extensive body of evidence generated over several decades has demonstrated that a large number of behaviors (e.g., smoking, insufficient physical activity, diet, etc.) and risk factors (blood pressure, cholesterol levels, diabetes, etc.) play important roles in development of cardiovascular disease and mortality. In more recent years, an appreciation of the influence of various forms of stress on cardiovascular health has also emerged. Stress can take many forms, and both acute and chronic stress can result in poor health outcomes. Stressors may act either as independently or synergistically with each other to enhance the severity of cardiovascular risk factors and outcomes. With regard to cardiovascular disease, chronic stress is recognized as an independent risk factor for its development and increases morbidity and mortality for those with existing coronary artery disease.

Psychosocial stress (PSS) is known to have adverse effects on cardiovascular health. Psychosocial stressors are those having both a psychological and social component, and include conditions and situations such as work stress, relationship, or marriage difficulties, living in isolation, lack of social support or basic resources, major life events, being subjected to discrimination and systemic racism, and other conditions. INTERHEART was a seminal, global study demonstrating an association of psychosocial risk factors with cardiovascular health, namely risk of acute myocardial infarction. This study was unique in that it assessed these factors in individuals from 52 countries; it demonstrated a strong correlation for multiple psychosocial stressors and myocardial infarct (MI) in comparison to the age-matched control group. In addition, the association of PSS and MI was consistent across regions and ethnic groups, and it was similar in men and women.

While our understanding of the impact of psychosocial stress on cardiovascular health has increased in recent years, large gaps in our fundamental understanding of psychosocial stress and cardiovascular disease remain. A strong need exists for: 1) further elucidation of cellular and molecular signaling pathways activated in response to chronic psychosocial stressors; and 2) research about stress interventions at population levels and how interventions relate to underlying molecular mechanisms.

This new Network RFA will support at least three Centers whose collective efforts will lead to a greatly enhanced understanding of mechanisms underlying the impact of chronic psychosocial stress on cardiovascular health. Each center application will include three (3) research projects from at least two (2) science disciplines. Due to the critical need for fundamental understanding of mechanisms that drive cardiovascular effects of chronic psychosocial stress, two of the proposed projects must be basic science focused.

General Overview - This SFRN on the Biologic Pathways of Chronic Psychosocial Stressors on Cardiovascular Healthwill consist of at least three centers, each of which will propose novel research studies to address this issue. Funded centers will be expected to collaborate on solving the core issues underlying this problem, including via development of a common network-wide collaborative project (see the Program website for details).

Network Centers - Each center application will include three (3) research projects from at least two (2) science disciplines(i.e., basic, clinical, population health research). Due to the critical need for fundamental understanding of mechanisms that drive cardiovascular effects of chronic psychosocial stress, two of the proposed projects must be basic science focused. Proposed projects should be complementary in addressing mechanistic aspects of psychosocial stress and cardiovascular health. Projects may all be from a single institution, or they may be from multiple institutions. Each research project will be led by a Project Principal Investigator (PI), and must have the necessary research team, required infrastructure and ability to conduct the stated research. One overall Center director will also be a key component of each center. Each Center’s director will facilitate activities within his/her/their center and work closely with the other Network Center Directors to facilitate activities across the Network, including end-of-network deliverables.

Study Population(s)

  • For studies involving human subjects, projects must include study participants who are under-represented and/or underserved with regard to healthcare delivery. The proportion of these individuals in proposed studies should be reflective, at a minimum, of their representation in the local/regional population from which subjects will be recruited.
  • It will be important for applicants to design studies that incorporate both realistic recruitment goals and sufficient statistical power to ensure valid results.

Additional Expectations and Opportunities

  • In keeping with AHA’s commitment to supporting diverse researchers and institutions, one of the following conditions must be met. A letter will be required as part of the required pre-proposal confirming that the institution meets these conditions:
    • Center applications must originate from investigators at academic institutions that primarily serve individuals from groups who are under-represented in science (e.g., Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) or Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs)) or from investigators at a non-research-intensive institution as defined by NIH (an average of less than $7.5M in total NIH funding over the past three fiscal years)
    • For center application originating from research-intensive institutions, those institutions must partner with an institution from one of the two categories noted in the preceding paragraph. Investigators from these partnering institutions must be included in a substantive manner (see the Program website for details).
  • Each center must train 3 postdoctoral fellows over the four-year grant period (for example, one fellow in years 1-2; one fellow in years 2-3; one fellow in years 3-4). AHA’s aim is to help end historical structures and workplace cultures that advertently or inadvertently treat people inequitably based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, ability, veteran status or other factors. Therefore, at least 50% of the fellows named must be from a racial or ethnic group that is under-represented in science (Black/African American; Hispanic/Latino; Native American or Alaska Native; and/or Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander) or an LGBTQ+ person or a woman.
Sponsor LOI Deadline: 
Nov 17, 2022
Sponsor Final Deadline: 
Jan 19, 2023
OSVPR Application or NOI Instructions: 

Please plan to connect with staff from the Office of Foundation Relations, who will consult on proposal narrative elements, answer foundation-related questions, and assist the down select winner with their submission. Applicants intending to submit to the limited submission please contact Jessica Kiely, Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations, Penn State College of Medicine (jkiely1@pennstatehealth.psu.edu).

Interested applicants should use the PreProposal template attached to this competition to complete their project description and append CV's for key personnel in sequence in one PDF file (File name: Last name_SFRN_2022) no later than 4:00 p.m. on the internal submission deadline.

Please note per AHA requirements that the selected nominee, if applying as a Center Director or a Project PI, must be an AHA Member.

Questions concerning the limited submissions process may be submitted to limitedsubs@psu.edu.

**Please note, all proposals must be submitted through the Office of Research Affairs and adhere to review/submission timelines. In addition, many systems require the institution to accept terms and conditions that relate specifically to the access and use of a portal or site, or govern the conduct of the proposed project. Any such terms and conditions will require a proper review prior to proposal submission to determine acceptability by the University.**

To be considered as a Penn State institutional nominee, please submit a notice of intent by the date provided directly below.
This limited submission is in downselect: 
Penn State may only submit a specific number of proposals to this funding opportunity. The number of NOIs received require that an internal competition take place, thus, a downselect process has commenced. No Penn State researchers may apply to this opportunity outside of this downselect process. To apply for this limited submission, please use this link:
OSVPR Downselect Deadline: 
Tuesday, November 1, 2022 - 4:00pm
No Applicants, Now first come, first served - Contact LimitedSubs@psu.edu if you wish to apply