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News Updates from the Texas Heart Institute

$1.5 million NIH Grant Awarded to Researchers at
Texas Heart Institute at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital for
Study of Adult Stem Cells and Heart Assist Devices as Combined Therapy for Heart Failure

Houston, Texas (May 5, 2010) – Physician scientists at the Texas Heart Institute at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital (THI at St. Luke's) have been awarded a grant of almost $1.5 million by the National Institutes of Health for research into treatments for patients with end-stage heart failure that would combine heart assist devices and adult stem cell treatments.

THI has been a pioneer in both areas of treatment, and a successful result could lead to even more effective treatments for thousands of patients with heart failure who have no other options.

Igor D. Gregoric, MD"We are optimistic that resting the heart with the LVAD (heart assist device) after cell therapy will lead to improved cardiac function and patient survival," said Dr. Igor Gregoric, Director of the THI at St. Luke's Center for Cardiac Support and one of the principal investigators in the research.

THI at St. Luke's is recognized as a leader in using adult stem cells as an applied therapy for heart failure. THI doctors were the first in the world to successfully treat patients with coronary heart disease and severe heart failure using patients' own bone marrow-derived adult stem cells injected directly into their damaged hearts to improve function. THI was also the first facility in the United States with an FDA-approved protocol to study the use of adult stem cells in the treatment of patients and remains one of only five institutions nationwide selected by the National Institutes of Health to be part of a new Cardiovascular Cell Therapy Research Network.

THI has also been instrumental in the development and refinement of heart assist devices (LVADs), which have been approved as bridges to transplant for patients awaiting heart transplants, and as "destination therapy" for permanent use in patients not eligible for transplants. In some patients, LVAD therapy has enabled damaged hearts to recover blood flow and heart function, obviating the need for a transplant.

Physician scientists hope the new research will lead to improvements in both areas of treatment. Among the goals of the research will be to clarify which therapy or combinations of therapy will best enhance new blood flow and improved function in damaged areas of the heart. Scientists also expect to design the protocols for eventual human trials.

The NIH grant provides more than $740,000 during the first year of the research project, and just over $749,000 during the second year.

Emerson C. Perin, MD, PhD, FACC"We are excited about the potential for combining stem cells with LVADs, two powerful therapies in the treatment of patients with end-stage heart failure," said Dr. Emerson Perin, Director of THI's Stem Cell Center and another of the principal investigators on the project. Perin also is part of the THI research team that first showed the efficacy of adult stem cell treatments for cardiac patients.

Heart failure is a significant problem in the United States, where cardiovascular disease remains the No. 1 killer. Once heart failure reaches end-stage, treatment options decrease. Up to 150,000 heart failure patients could benefit from a transplant, yet only slightly more than 2,000 donor hearts per year are available in the U.S.  

Biswajit Kar, MD"We certainly want this research to lead to new and better treatments for so many people who are out of options, and we'll work very hard to reach that goal," said Dr. Biswajit Kar, a THI heart failure and transplant cardiologist who is also one of the project's principal investigators. 

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For media inquiries please contact:
Texas Heart Institute
Frank Michel  ♦  713-218-2210 or 832-355-9246

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

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