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News Updates from the Texas Heart Institute

Research Director Awarded Recovery Act Grant from
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

Houston, Texas (January 15, 2010) – With heart, lung and blood diseases accounting for three of the four leading causes of death in the United States, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded a $1 million Challenge Grant to Richard Dixon, PhD, director of the Wafic Said Department of Molecular Cardiology Research, Texas Heart Institute (THI) at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital, and principal investigator, and Ke-He Ruan, professor of pharmacology, University of Houston.    

Richard Dixon, PhDDixon, principal investigator, and Ruan received the grant for their research toward developing prostacyclin-secreting cells, a revolutionary cell-based therapy to prevent the effects of Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension (PAH)—a rare blood vessel disorder characterized by increased pressure in the pulmonary artery. With PAH, the progressive increases in arterial pressure and pulmonary vascular resistance can lead to devastating effects, such as right heart failure and ultimately death.  

With the Recovery Act Grant, Dixon, Ruan and colleagues will continue their work to develop genetically engineered cells that secrete prostacyclin, which aids in proper blood flow and reducing clotting.   

"Our research will provide the pre-clinical foundation to move this novel cell-based therapy for PAH forward into clinical trials," said Dixon. "The prospects of a treatment that replenishes prostacyclin levels would overcome existing flaws in the current treatment and assist in the advancement of biomedical engineering for other cardiovascular diseases."

"This award to THI presents an extraordinary opportunity to advance biomedical research while creating jobs in local communities and avenues for talented young and new investigators," said NHLBI Director Elizabeth G. Nabel, MD. "We look forward to the outcome of this research, which will contribute to a better understanding of how we can improve the health of the American public."

The Challenge Grant was awarded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), which is part of the NIH.  Funding was provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act). Signed in February 2009 by President Obama, the Recovery Act has provided an unprecedented level of funding for biomedical research.  As an effort to jumpstart the economy, stimulate job growth and address long-neglected medical advancements, a total of $10.4 billion is allocated to NIH for the advancement of scientific research.

For more information about THI's research in this area, see Wafic Said Molecular Cardiology Research Laboratory.

For media inquiries please contact:
Texas Heart Institute
Frank Michel  ♦  713-218-2210

For THI and St. Luke's media profiles, see Public Affairs.

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