November 26, 2013
Dear Friend of the Texas Heart Institute,Thanksgiving 2013
is upon us. At the Texas Heart Institute,
we have much to be thankful for, including your support.
That support allows us say that, through the research,
education and improved treatments developed here, this Thanksgiving is a little
brighter than the last for cardiovascular medicine.
We continue to advance remarkable science and offer new hope
to our patients on numerous fronts.
One exciting example is in the emerging field of
regenerative medicine. A team of researchers, led by Dr. James Martin, director
of THI's Cardiomyocyte Renewal Laboratory and a member of Baylor College of
Medicine's Department of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics, has discovered a
new cellular signaling pathway in adult mice which inhibits the heart's ability
to renew itself following traumatic injury, such as a heart attack. When the
team removed certain signals associated with the "Hippo pathway," the mice
hearts were able to regenerate heart muscle cells naturally.
We know from earlier research that the heart's
self-regenerative ability begins to decline very early in life. There is still
a lot of work to be done, but the hope now is that we can turn the regenerative
ability back on, and that will translate into healing human hearts. You can
read more about it at www.texasheart.org.
In another area, we have collaborated with a Rice University
team led by Eladio Rivera, a former postdoctoral researcher at Rice, and Rice chemist
Lon Wilson, on a better way to track stem cells in the body in real time.
The team inserts bismuth compounds into tiny molecular
nanotubes which are then inserted inside the cells. Bismuth, a chemical element
commonly used in some cosmetics and antacid medicine, is a very effective
contrast agent for computed tomography (CT) scanners.
One of the beauties of this method is that it can provide very high
contrast in small concentrations. The wider implications for both diagnostics
and improving adult stem cell research are also very exciting.
This research is a collaboration among Rice, THI, the
University of Houston and St. Luke's Medical Center. You can learn more about
Finally, I point out that we at THI and St. Luke's Medical
Center are very close to implanting our 1,000th ventricular assist
device (VAD), a milestone no other heart center can match.
With heart transplants available to only a tiny fraction of
heart failure patients in the U.S., these mechanical heart pumps are offering
new hope, new therapy, and renewed quality of life to many patients.
Dr. Bud Frazier, who has implanted more of these devices
than any other surgeon in the world, has literally devoted his career to the
development of these remarkable machines. His decades-long devotion to this
life-saving research inspires us all. Dr. William E. Cohn and Dr. Hari R.
Mallidi are extremely valuable contributors to this effort, as well. As we give thanks this year for these and many
other things, we extend our best wishes to you and your family for a safe,
happy, and heart-healthy Thanksgiving
With my gratitude and respect,
James T. Willerson, MD
President and Medical Director
P.S. The generosity in your hearts has changed the lives of others. THI can continue as a world leader in life-saving medical research and advanced treatments with your support. Your heart, our minds, together change lives. Here we share some of our stories.
Contact Dr. Willerson