$1.5 million NIH Grant Awarded to Researchers at Texas Heart Institute at St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital for Study of Adult

HOUSTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- 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.

“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. Also 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.

“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.

“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.

About St. Luke’s Episcopal Health System

St. Luke’s Episcopal Health System (www.stlukestexas.com) includes St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital in the Texas Medical Center, founded in 1954 by the Episcopal Diocese of Texas; St. Luke’s The Woodlands Hospital; St. Luke’s Sugar Land Hospital; St. Luke’s Lakeside Hospital; and St. Luke’s Episcopal Health Charities, a charity devoted to assessing and enhancing community health, especially among the underserved. St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital is home to the Texas Heart® Institute, which was founded in 1962 by Denton A. Cooley, MD, and is consistently ranked among the top 10 cardiology and heart surgery centers in the country by U.S. News & World Report. Affiliated with several nursing schools and three medical schools, St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital was the first hospital in Texas named a Magnet hospital for nursing excellence, and has been honored four times with the Distinguished Hospital Award for Clinical Excellence™ by HealthGrades, a leading independent company that measures healthcare quality in hospitals. The Health System has been recognized by FORTUNE as among the “100 Best Companies to Work For” and by the Houston Business Journal as a top employer in Houston. St. Luke’s Episcopal Health System also was honored as one of Modern Healthcare magazine’s “100 Best Places to Work.”

About the Texas Heart® Institute

The Texas Heart Institute (www.texasheart.org), founded by world-renowned cardiovascular surgeon Dr. Denton A. Cooley in 1962, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing the devastating toll of cardiovascular disease through innovative and progressive programs in research, education and improved patient care. Together with its clinical partner, St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital, it has been ranked among the top 10 cardiovascular centers in the United States by U.S. News & World Report’s annual guide to “America’s Best Hospitals” for the past 19 years. The Texas Heart Institute is also affiliated with the University of Texas (UT) System, which promotes collaboration in cardiovascular research and education among UT and THI faculty at the Texas Heart Institute and other UT components.


Texas Heart Institute
Frank Michel, 713-218-2210 or 832-355-9246
[email protected]

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