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What is a Researcher?
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What is a Researcher?
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Researchers at the Texas Heart Institute (THI) at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital work in a variety of fields to find new treatments that will improve the quality of life for patients with diseases or disorders of the heart and blood vessels. Many new treatment methods and devices are available to you today as a direct result of that research.

Who are the researchers at THI? Program directors and scientists affiliated with each THI research department are listed in the Research section and are also profiled in the Professional Staff directory.

Research at THI is focused on the following areas:

  • Cardiovascular surgical research
  • Cardiovascular anesthesiology
  • Cardiovascular pathology
  • Electrophysiology
  • Adult stem cell therapy for heart failure
  • Heart transplantation
  • Vulnerable plaque
  • Molecular cardiology and gene therapy

See Research at THI for more detail about each area of study.

A primary focus in the cardiovascular surgical research laboratory has always been mechanical circulatory support systems. These systems include intra-aortic balloon pumps, left ventricular assist devices (LVADs), and total artificial hearts—all of which are designed to help or replace diseased hearts. In fact, our researchers’ studies have shown that after long-term LVAD support, patients often tolerate a heart transplant much better because their hearts have had a chance to rest and regain strength. Some patients’ hearts recover enough that they do not have to undergo a heart transplant at all.

The list of THI’s milestones in the area of cardiovascular surgical research is long, but you can read about current activities and a few of the historic milestones at Research Milestones and Discoveries at THI.

In the area of cardiology research, our researchers are studying what causes heart disease at the cellular level so they can help develop better methods of prevention and treatment. For example, our researchers have learned that warmer plaque in an artery is more likely to rupture, and that many sudden heart attacks are actually caused by the rupture of this vulnerable plaque. The concept of vulnerable plaque is a major breakthrough in the field of cardiology.

In the Stem Cell and Heart Failure Research Laboratory, THI researchers are studying whether stem cells harvested from a patient’s own bone marrow and injected into the heart can be used to treat the damage caused by a heart attack or a lack of oxygen to the heart muscle (called cardiac ischemia). Through nationwide collaboration with doctors and researchers, we are pursuing the potential for using adult human stem cells to treat patients with chronic heart failure.

At THI, all the discoveries in the labs can be put to good use to help our patients. For just a few of THI’s cardiology research discoveries, see Research Milestones and Discoveries at THI.

Genomics and Proteomics

Researchers at the Texas Heart Institute work in the fields of genomics (how genetic information is passed down through family) and proteomics (the role of proteins produced by genes). For example, they are learning how to keep arteries open by transferring genes to diseased vessels. In other research programs, they are looking at how proteins are expressed differently by healthy and diseased heart tissue.

Updated October 2013
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