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President Willerson Leads NIH Heart Stem Cell Study
James T. Willerson, M.D., president of The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston and president-elect of the Texas Heart Institute (THI) at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital, is principal investigator of one of five centers selected by the National Institutes of Health to study stem cell treatments for patients with cardiovascular disease.
The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute will provide a grant of $33.7 million over the next five years to support the new national consortium called the Cardiovascular Cell Therapy Research Network (CCTRN). The network represents the first U.S. federal funding for adult stem cell studies in which patients are treated with stem cells taken from their own bodies.
"This grant provides much-needed support to accelerate research through multiple, collaborative Phase I and II clinical trials that study safety and efficacy," Dr. Willerson said. "This emerging field of medicine holds great promise, and we are eager to add to new knowledge which translates into effective new treatments for cardiovascular disease.
"Of course I'm pleased that The University of Texas School of Public Health at Houston has been selected as the data coordinating center for the entire network. The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center will supply a core cell processing center and additional resources, further broadening the collaboration among Texas Medical Center institutions," he said.
Other centers in the CCTRN are the Cleveland Clinic, University of Florida, University of Minnesota and Vanderbilt University.
Emerson Perin, M.D., Ph.D., director of New Interventional Cardiovascular Technology and director of the Stem Cell Center at THI, is co-principal investigator for the research to be conducted there.
The THI Stem Cell Center was first in the U.S. to receive Food and Drug Administration approval for an adult stem cell clinical trial to treat patients with advanced heart failure. That study recently enrolled its 30th and final patient. Monitoring and follow-up of patients continues, and Stem Cell Center physicians hope to publish their results by the end of the year.
Cardiovascular disease remains the nation's leading cause of death, claiming 1.4 million lives each year and more lives than the next five leading causes of death combined. One in three Americans suffer from some form of cardiovascular disease, and associated costs are estimated at $432 billion in 2007.
The Texas Heart Institute is affiliated with the UT System, which promotes collaboration in cardiovascular research and education among UT institutions and THI.
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