NIH allots $1.5M to Texas Heart Institute for stem cell research

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The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has granted Texas Heart Institute at St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital $1.5 million in grant money for treating patients with end-stage heart failure (HF) via a combination of left ventricular assist devices (LVADs) and stem cell treatments.

“We are optimistic that resting the heart with the LVAD after cell therapy will lead to improved cardiac function and patient survival,” said Igor Gregoric, MD, director of the Texas Heart Institute (THI) based in Houston.

Doctors at THI have previously injected patient bone marrow-derived stem cells into a patient's damaged heart to regenerate cells and restore function.

Additionally, THI is one of five institutions included in NIH's Cardiovascular Cell Therapy Research Network.

The grant, which will dish out over $740,000 during the first year of research, will be used towards the evaluation of  therapies which will best enhance blood flow and heart function for HF patients in the hope of creating human clinical trials.

Because treatment for HF patients is scant, use of this combination treatment has the potential to provide 150,000 HF patients with transplant, compared to the 2,000 donor hearts currently transplanted per year, THI said.

Almost $749,000 will be distributed to THI during the second year of research.