Research, Innovation & Learning
Discovering the Next First
Translational research integrates discovery science, personalized medicine, and patient- and population-based research into a multidisciplinary framework to improve health. It is the capstone of Texas Heart Institute’s mission and underlies THI’s world-renowned reputation as an innovator in cardiovascular therapies. Five thematic areas are the focus of THI’s translational research efforts:
Artificial Heart and Heart-Assist Devices
All the left ventricular assist devices (LVADs) that are in clinical use throughout the world today were tested and refined in THI labs. Continuing this tradition, current efforts are focused on developing a permanent total artificial heart and miniaturizing heart-assist devices for children.
Regenerative Medicine & Gene Therapy
Researchers at THI are pioneering ways to use cutting-edge gene therapy and gene editing technologies to develop new treatments for heart disease. THI scientists are also refining biotechnologies and developing molecular tools to advance the field of bioartificial tissues and organs. And, by taking advantage of the latest research in heart and organ development, THI scientists are leading efforts to develop the world’s first gene therapy designed to turn on naturally occurring repair mechanisms in the heart to repair damaged tissue after a heart attack and to treat heart failure—effectively making the heart better able to heal itself.
Drug Discovery & Development
Drugs discovered at THI are being developed to enhance stem cell transplantation, noninvasively image atherosclerosis, treat inflammation in cardiovascular disease, and enhance vaccines that combat infections that attack the heart. These efforts, led by experienced pharmaceutical teams with proven track records, have resulted in successful out-licensing of technologies and phase I clinical trials.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval and commercialization of the Early Bird bleed-detection system (Saranas, Inc., Houston, Texas) is a perfect example of THI electrophysiologists advancing innovative science into clinical practice. Groundbreaking translational research in managing cardiac arrhythmias is following a similar path, including the development of wireless pacemakers and bioengineered conductive nanofibers to manage and treat heart disease.
Cell Therapy & Clinical Trials
Clinical research at THI is advancing the science of medicine in the same pioneering spirit that inspired the Institute’s founding nearly 60 years ago. From first-in-man clinical trials of cell-based therapies for heart failure and other cardiovascular diseases to our selection as a site for international clinical trials of new treatments for COVID-19 patients, our clinical research center’s reputation of excellence strengthens our ability to advance cardiovascular medicine and benefit patients.
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Dr. Ourania Preventza partners with renowned surgeons and the Annals of Cardiothoracic Surgery
First female cardiac surgeon to be granted the title of Professor of Surgery at Baylor College of Medicine
Artificial Heart & Heart Assist Devices
Texas Heart Institute’s Cardiovascular Surgery Research Laboratory—now the cornerstone of the THI Center for Preclinical Surgical & Interventional Research—has pioneered the development of cardiovascular devices, surgical procedures, and mechanical circulatory support approaches to help patients with heart disease.
Creativity Meets Innovation in the New THI IDEA Lab
The Texas Heart Institute Innovative Device & Engineering Applications (IDEA) Laboratory is where creativity and innovation meet healthcare. This was the first full year of operation of the IDEA Lab, whose mission is to discover and implement innovative solutions in the development of cardiovascular devices.
THI Launches New Innovation Partnerships Program
Texas Heart Institute’s new Innovation Partnerships program seeks to develop new medical technologies by facilitating THI partnerships with outside entities and launching spin-out companies from THI labs. In this spirit, THI worked closely with the Texas Medical Center’s TMC Innovation (TMCi) to provide mentorship and research services to healthcare startups from around the world.
Dr. O.H. Frazier Receives 2021 AATS Scientific Achievement Award
Previous Houston recipients include Michael DeBakey, MD (1999) and Denton Cooley, MD (2000), two of the most distinguished cardiothoracic surgeons in the history of the field.
Gene Therapy for Heart Failure
“Our work represents a major clinical breakthrough that could lead to a treatment to reverse heart failure and effectively cure the number one cause of death in America.” – James F. Martin, MD, Ph.D Director, Cardiomyocyte Renewal Laboratory
Advances In the Recellularization of Heart Scaffolds
Advancing the field toward the ultimate goal of recellularizing human hearts for transplant.
Bringing New Life to Damaged Hearts
“Our work represents a major clinical breakthrough that could lead to a treatment to reverse heart failure and effectively cure the number one cause of death in America.” – James F. Martin, MD, PhD, Director, Cardiomyocyte Renewal Laboratory
Drug Discovery & Development
Scientists and researchers in Texas Heart Institute’s Molecular Cardiology Research Laboratories (MCRL) are ideally positioned to discover and develop new cardiovascular drugs. The team approaches clinical challenges using a two-pronged approach: they combine their detailed insights into the molecular mechanisms of heart and vascular diseases with the drug-discovery expertise they honed while working in the pharmaceutical industry.
"Angiograms of a normal pediatric brain and the brain of a patient with Moyamoya Disease with a characteristic vessel that look like a “puff of smoke” due to compensatory collateralization. The dashed circle highlights the circle of Willis territory. Insets show a schematic of the cross-section of a normal artery and vessel occlusion." – Shaolie S. Hossain, PhD Assistant Investigator
Electrophysiology Clinical Innovations Expand Partnerships
The Electrophysiology Clinical Research & Innovations (EPCRI) department provides infrastructure for translational and clinical cardiac arrhythmia research and innovation at the Texas Heart Institute. Led by Director Mehdi Razavi, MD, EPCRI’s team of physicians and research engineers focuses on translational research to develop novel devices and techniques to detect, manage, and treat various cardiac conditions, particularly heart-rhythm diseases.
Clinical Practice Innovation: A Hybrid Atrial Fibrillation Program is Born
Patients with long-standing persistent atrial fibrillation have been waiting for breakthrough treatments, and in 2021, a promising hybrid procedure gained U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval to help patients in advanced stages of the disease. Abdi Rasekh, MD, and Jennifer Cozart, MD developed and implemented a new Hybrid Atrial Fibrillation Program at THI that leverages cutting-edge technologies.
A New Direction for Cell Therapy
Cell therapy reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke in heart failure patients with underlying inflammation – A late-breaking clinical trial (DREAM-HF; Efficacy and Safety of Allogeneic Mesenchymal Precursor Cells for the Treatment of Heart Failure) was presented by Emerson C. Perin, MD, Ph.D., at the American Heart Association 2021 Scientific Sessions describing results from the single largest trial of cell-based therapy for heart failure, with 565 patients enrolled across 51 sites throughout the US and Canada with a mean follow-up of 30 months.
THI’s Women’s Center Steps into its Next Decade of Excellence
In 2021, the Women’s Center embarked on two new areas of research that will benefit women and men. An extensive database was created to include all percutaneous valve procedures performed at the Texas Heart Institute. This new database is the ideal tool to assess the quality and outcomes of percutaneous valve procedures conducted at our institution. Multiple investigators are using the data to conduct outcomes studies or as a point of reference to evaluate new ways to approach valve disease.
Texas Heart Institute and Rice University’s Baker Institute Continue Series
"Policy series collaborator, Dr. Kirstin Matthews, recognized our mentor and former THI President Emeritus, Dr. James T. Willerson, whose unwavering advocacy and commitment to responsible stem cell research inspired this important series that continues today in his honor," said Keri Sprung, MBA, Vice President for Communications & Education and stem cell policy series collaborator.
Our institution-based fellowship program encourages the culture of a single institution and fosters collegiality among staff cardiologists, fellowship peers, nurses, and other support staff.
Clinical Cardiology Fellowships
Over the past 50 years, the THI Fellowship program has evolved and grown organically to meet the needs of our trainees while providing vital support to our clinical affiliate hospital. The fellows are entrenched in a learning strategy that promotes excellence while improving the patient length of stay and quality metrics at our hospital partner.