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Heart to Heart from Dr. James T. Willerson

January 26, 2012

Dear Friend of the Texas Heart Institute,

Regenerative medicine. Google that term and you’ll get about 6.5 million references in less than a heartbeat.

This is just one indication of the hope and promise for the regenerative field in which scientists and physicians seek to regenerate human cells, tissues and even organs to overcome an array of diseases.

In the case of diseased hearts, the Texas Heart Institute has already shown through some ground-breaking clinical trials that a patient’s adult stem cells – derived from their own bone marrow – can help restore some functions for hearts damaged by severe heart failure. We’re making progress with other types of cells as well.

Why is it important? Because cardiovascular disease remains the No. 1 killer of men, women and children in the country. Also because, at a time when the need for organ transplants is growing exponentially, the number of organ donations is stuck on pause. For example, over the last 15 years or so, the number of heart transplants performed in the entire U.S. has remained at about 2,200; a number dwarfed by the need.

We believe regenerative medicine is one of the critical pathways to the future of fighting cardiovascular disease, and some of our best scientists/physicians are in the field.

Doris Taylor, PhD
Doris Taylor, PhD, FAHA, FACC

I am very happy to say that we are adding another one to the ranks. Dr. Doris Taylor, an internationally acclaimed scientist who was recruited here from the University of Minnesota, will join us beginning March 1, this year.

Most recently, Dr. Taylor  and her team garnered recognition for their work involving “whole organ decellularization,” which showed they can remove the existing cells from hearts of laboratory animals and even humans to leave a framework for building new organs. By then repopulating the framework with adult stem cells and giving it a blood supply, the heart regenerates, taking on the characteristics and functions of a revitalized beating heart.

The hope is that this research is an early step toward being able to grow a fully functional human heart in the laboratory. The process holds promise for other organs as well. You can read more about it on our website.

We are excited to have Dr. Taylor, a Mississippi native, return to the South near her family, and to join the THI family.

As you may know, THI is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year with the slogan, “A golden history, a shining future.” Indeed, the future shines even brighter with this good news.

With great respect,

James T. Willerson signature


  James T. Willerson, MD
  President and Medical Director

Texas Heart Institute: Celebrating 50 Years of ExcellenceContact Dr. Willerson

Read previous issues of Heart to Heart in the archives.

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