Shedding light on how a network of protein fibers that processes data plays a role in heart health is the aim of a new collaboration between two organizations.

The American Heart Association and The Paul G. Allen Frontiers Group will award a pair of $1.5 million grants to delve deeper into the extracellular matrix, a network of protein fibers in all tissues, including the heart, that can store and transmit information across months, years and even decades.

Experts say better understanding how the matrix instructs cells to behave and how it stores long-term memory could help make strides in fighting heart disease and stroke, the nation’s No. 1 and No. 5 killers.

“The role of the extracellular matrix in heart disease is a frontier topic ripe for exploration, and we are pleased to be embarking on this path of discovery with world-renowned experts in the field,” said Tom Skalak, Ph.D., executive director of The Paul G. Allen Frontiers Group, which supports pioneering scientific explorers with the potential to transform fields.

The AHA’s president said the two organizations aim to help change the way science is done.

“We are pleased to stand shoulder to shoulder with The Paul G. Allen Frontiers Group on the frontier of science to make meaningful strides toward solving cardiovascular disease,” said Steven Houser, Ph.D., of Temple University.

The deadline to submit applications for the AHA-Allen Distinguished Investigator awards is May 10. The two awardees will be announced in June.