Scientific research teams in California and Texas have been awarded nearly $1.4 million in grants to study ways to improve pediatric heart transplant outcomes.
These first two research awards mark the initial investment of the joint $3 million funding initiative between American Heart Association, the world’s leading voluntary health organization devoted to fighting cardiovascular disease, and Enduring Hearts, a non-profit organization dedicated to funding innovative research aimed at improving the lives of children living with transplanted hearts.
The announcement comes during National Pediatric Transplant Week, April 18-24, 2021. According to Enduring Hearts, more than 450 children undergo a heart transplant in the U.S. each year. Although medical advances have improved over the years, many of these children and their families still face a lifetime of challenges. More than one in four pediatric heart transplants will fail within five years, largely due to some type of organ rejection. The average pediatric heart transplant lasts only 17 years and currently less than 5% of those children will have the chance for a second transplant.
The projects, each receiving nearly $700,000 for their three-year research studies, include:
- Early Detection of Cardiac Allograft Vasculopathy in post-transplant Pediatric Hearts via Single-Cell Genomics at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas – Led by James F. Martin, M.D., Ph.D., a professor and the Vivian L. Smith Chair in Regenerative Medicine at Baylor, this team will study ways to better detect cardiac allograft vasculopathy (CAV), a form of heart transplant rejection.
CAV is an accelerated type of coronary artery disease caused when the blood vessels supplying the transplanted heart gradually narrow and restrict its blood flow. Current methods to detect CAV only look at large blood vessels of the heart and by the time there is evidence of large vessel disease, the smaller vessels are already damaged and treatment options are very limited. This team will use new genetic methods to identify CAV at early stages, using single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq) to study heart tissue obtained from children with heart disease which may allow for early detection and subsequent treatment.
- Clinical Ancillary Study to the TEAMMATE Trial at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California – Led by Christopher Almond, M.D., M.P.H., professor of pediatrics (cardiology) at Stanford’s Lucile Salter Packard Children’s Hospital, this team will study ways to prevent long-term problems after pediatric heart transplant that limit length of life after transplant.
During this research project, the team will do bloodwork on children who are completing a clinical trial called TEAMMATE, a study comparing two drugs to prevent rejection of the heart. The researchers hope the new drug may increase length of life by preventing kidney problems, rejection and other heart problems. As a partner study to TEAMMATE, this research will help improve understanding of how to prevent these problems and design future trials to help improve length of life after heart transplant.
“The American Heart Association is proud to support this research aimed at improving the lives and long-term survival of our youngest, most vulnerable patients,” said American Heart Association President Mitchell Elkind, M.D., M.S., FAHA, FAAN, a professor of neurology and epidemiology at Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and attending neurologist at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center. “This highly innovative research will hopefully open new doors of discovery that result in life-changing opportunities for these children.”
“Today, children requiring a transplanted heart to live must battle to save it for their lifetime. To help them win this battle Enduring Hearts and the American Heart Association have teamed up to fund two Collaborative Science awards. These awards represent the combined commitments of two separate research teams, one powered to improve detection and the other to trial new treatments to help these children win this battle,” said Robert Boucek, M.D. Enduring Hearts Scientific Board Chair.
“Our goal is to make a heart transplant become a lasting cure. We are grateful for the partnership of American Heart Association to help support these important research studies and bring much-needed funds to an area that has been critically under-funded,” said Carolyn Salvador, Chief Executive Officer of Enduring Hearts.
About the American Heart Association