Once thought manageable, heart disease is making a dangerous comeback in the U.S., killing more than ever with a surprising toll on city dwellers.

While doctors cite increasing stress and spreading sedentary lifestyles, private investors are funding medical startups in an effort to bring to market innovations that treat cardiovascular diseases.  

Heart disease remains the biggest U.S. killer. After years of slowing, death rates resumed climbing early in the last decade — heart disease claimed nearly 650,000 American lives in 2017, according to Centers for Disease Control data cited by the Wall Street Journal last year. That’s still below the 725,000 deaths in 1999, but a big move up from 575,000 in 2010. 

Mortality is rising for the 45 to 64 age group in cities in the country, including places noted for healthy lifestyles like Colorado, according to a WSJ report. Public health officials’ predictions that heart disease-related mortality will fall behind cancer by 2020 aren’t coming true and are increasingly out of reach.

Scientists are developing artificial neurons that can help patients with heart failure. Researchers at the U.K.’s University of Bath are trying to print artificial neurons on tiny silicon chips, mimicking how electrical signals are transferred in the human body. Those microchips require one-billionth the power of a regular microprocessor, according to an MIT Tech Review report. In theory, the chips can be implanted to replace failing neurons.

  • Venture capital investments in cardiovascular-related startups reached a record $1.12 billion last year, 6% higher than 2018 and almost double from 2017, according to PitchBook data. The bulk of the money went to drug discovery, biotech and therapeutic devices. 
  • Two companies raised more than $100 million last year. Beijing-based GuoKe Hengtai Medical Technology, a provider of medical device delivery software, scored $155 million in series C last September led by Taikang Insurance Group Company, the largest capital raised in the space last year. Gene therapy developer Encoded Therapeutics raised $104 million in series C last June led by Alexandria Venture Investments. 
  • Life Sciences Partners from Amsterdam, and Boston-based Broadview Ventures are the two most active investors in the field, with seven and five investments respectively over the last five years.