He is also Department Executive Vice Chairman and Vice Chair for Research in the Department of Medicine.
His research focuses on preventing the damage caused during heart attacks by studying ischemic preconditioning, the phenomenon in which heart muscle exposed to brief periods of stress becomes resistant to the tissue death that might be caused by a heart attack.
He is investigating the use of adult cardiac stem cells to repair dead heart tissue, pioneering the use of stem cells taken from the patient for potential heart repair applications.
In 1998 Bolli led a U of L team that identified an intracellular molecule that could protect the heart from this kind of damage. This group presented its findings to 40,000 cardiologists at the 1998 American Heart Association conference.
In 2005, Bolli led a U of L team that was awarded an $11.7 million grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute – part of the National Institutes of Health – to continue to build on this research. To date, this is the largest nationally-competitive NIH grant awarded to the university.
NIH reviewers rated the proposed research program as exceedingly innovative and potentially high-impact, noting that it addresses an extremely important clinical problem in a way that will move treatments from the laboratory to the patient as quickly as possible. Using highly unusual language, the reviewers called the proposal "a paradigm of what a program project grant should be."
Since his arrival to U of L in 1994, Bolli and his team have brought over 50 million dollars in NIH grants to the university. Bolli presents regularly at national meetings and has published extensively in Circulation Research, the Journal of Clinical Investigation, PNAS and other prestigious journals.
He is currently chairman of the AHA’s Distinguished Scientist Selection Committee, of the AHA’s Council on Basic Cardiovascular Sciences and of the AHA’s Council Operations Committee. He is a member of the advisory council of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. He is also president of the International Society for Heart Research.
Bolli is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including the Basic Research Prize of the American Heart Association (2001), the MERIT Award from the NIH (2001), the Research Achievement Award from the International Society for Heart Research (2004), the Lucian Award from McGill University (2004), the Ken Bowman Award from the University of Manitoba, and the Howard Morgan Award from the International Academy of Cardiovascular Sciences. He has published more than 270 peer-reviewed articles.
Bolli earned his medical degree at the University of Perugia in Italy and was a cardiology research fellow at the NIH.
Prior to joining U of L, he was a professor of cardiology at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.