Bourbon Street, French Quarter, New Orleans, Lousiana

Thousands of healthcare providers and scientists are gathering to explore the latest research in heart disease and related health problems during the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions — widely considered the premier U.S. cardiovascular science conference.

Renowned experts in cardiovascular disease – the leading cause of death in the world – are  among the more than 16,000 attendees expected at the New Orleans meeting. Sessions will include more than 5,000 sessions and 4,000 abstract presentations.

“This meeting is critical for the exploration and understanding of the latest important scientific developments – all with the end goal of saving and improving people’s lives,” said American Heart Association President Steven Houser, Ph.D., who kicks things off Sunday with his address to attendees.

“Sessions is vital to all of us who are in the business of seeking better prevention, treatment and even cures for these terrible diseases, but not only because of the many presentations; the meeting is also a unique opportunity to share ideas and brainstorm with experts and peers from around the world,” said Houser, senior associate dean of research, chairman of the department of physiology, and director of the Cardiovascular Research Center at Temple University in Philadelphia.

The most anticipated science often is included in cutting-edge sessions called Late-Breaking Clinical Trials and Clinical Science: Special Report, said Frank W. Sellke, M.D., the Chairman of the American Heart Association’s volunteer committee that undertakes the massive task of assembling so much scientific programming.

“This week we will hear findings of some really high-profile trials covering areas such as heart failure, cardiac surgery, the use of one or two internal mammary arteries and interventional cardiology,” said Sellke, the chief of cardiothoracic surgery at Brown Medical School and the Lifespan Hospitals in Providence, Rhode Island.

Other highlights include a special presentation Monday on precision therapeutics from FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf, M.D.

Califf’s presentation is part of the new “Main Event” sessions this year that will examine cutting-edge topics in the treatment of cardiovascular diseases, including the latest cardiac regeneration science, the changing landscape of acute coronary syndrome care and new approaches to repairing the damaged cardiovascular system.

Scientific Sessions began in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in 1925, the year after the AHA was founded. The meetings have been held annually in cities around the country, with the exception of a hiatus during World War II.

Scientific Sessions timeline

New Orleans, always a popular location on the meeting and conference circuit, has hosted Sessions before. However, this is the first time since the city passed a smoking ban in most indoor locations in April 2015. The AHA currently requires host cities to have strong smoke-free workplace laws.

Attendees and presenters at Sessions alike will include researchers whose work is being funded by the AHA or has been funded by the organization. The AHA funds more cardiovascular research than any organization outside the federal government.

Since 1949, the AHA has funded more than $4 billion in research, resulting in numerous important scientific breakthroughs. In that time, the AHA funded 13 Nobel Prize winners.