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About the Texas Heart Institute 

Texas Heart ® Institute (THI), 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 programs in research, education and improved patient care. U.S. News & World Report’s annual guide to “America’s Best Hospitals” has ranked THI among the nation’s top 10 heart centers each year since the prestigious rankings began in 1991.

During its first 50 years, THI has been recognized nationally and internationally for its important contributions to the understanding and prevention of cardiovascular disease. THI has been the site of the first human heart transplant in the U.S., the world’s first implantation of a total artificial heart, the first use of patients’ own adult stem cells to help heal the patients’ damaged hearts, and many other ground-breaking developments in cardiovascular medicine. Support from the private sector has played a key role in making those advances possible.  Unlike most institutions that have a source of operating revenue, Texas Heart Institute relies solely on government grants, research contracts and, above all, philanthropy. Donations from grateful patients, foundations, corporations, physicians, and the general public account for more than half of the Institute’s annual operating budget.

Leading with the Heart®

The discovery of new knowledge to improve patient care and to prevent cardiovascular disease is the motivating force at THI. Physicians and scientists work tirelessly to unfold the mysteries of cardiovascular disease, to understand the mechanisms at work, and to envision solutions that will ultimately lead to effective treatments.

Heart of Discovery®

With regard to regenerative medicine, James T. Willerson, MD and Emerson C. Perin, MD, PhD lead the preclinical and clinical efforts of The Texas Heart Institute through The Stem Cell Center.  The center, through numerous pre-clinical studies, explores the basic aspects and influences of stem cells on animal models of cardiovascular disease.

Between 2000 and 2002, a team of THI physicians, led by Dr. Willerson and Dr. Emerson Perin, Medical Director for THI’s Stem Cell Center, was the first in the world to conduct a clinical trial using heart failure patients’ own bone marrow-derived adult stem cells to improve heart function.

With numerous collaborative relationships with renowned institutions both near and far, the Stem Cell Center continues to bridge the basic science understanding of stem cell action with bedside treatment strategies in patients with cardiovascular disease.
Each year, the center invites doctors from around the country and the world to participate in their research programs. Texas Heart Institute members actively contribute to numerous scientific meetings and collaborate with other institutions in the United States and abroad to improve the understanding of adult stem cell therapy.

The Texas Heart Institute was one of the first of five centers of the national Cardiovascular Cell Therapy Research Network (CCTRN), originally funded by NHLBI in 2007. At that time, it represented the first U.S. federal funding for adult stem cell studies.  CCTRN members are selected after a nationwide competition and due to it’s success, the network was expanded in 2012 to seven centers and refunded for an additional seven years by the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI).

Today, The Stem Cell Center has pioneered stem cell research in patients with heart failure and continues to enroll patients in FDA-approved trials.  THI is also investigating the use of stem cells in aiding with recovery in cases of a heart attack and in patients with peripheral vascular disease and angina: Using Stem Cells to Treat Damaged Hearts.

Regenerative Medicine Research at Texas Heart Institute

The Regenerative Medicine Research facilities, led by Doris A. Taylor, PhD, FAHA, FACC, are located at the Texas Heart Institute—the Denton A. Cooley Building.  The areas of regenerative medicine research at THI include: cell and gene therapy for treatment of cardiovascular diseases, cell profiling, tissue engineering of bioartificial organs and vasculature, cell programming and reprogramming, cell-based prevention of disease, stem cell and cancer cell research, aging as a failure of stem cells, sex differences in cardiovascular and vascular cell based therapies and autologous cell therapy to treat and slow the progression of disease.

Dr. Taylor is internationally recognized for her work involving “whole organ decellularization,” in which she and her team showed they could remove the existing cells from hearts of laboratory animals and even humans to leave a framework for building new organs.  The hope is that this research is an early step toward being able to grow a fully functional human heart in the laboratory.  A vision shared by the entire team at the Texas Heart Institute. Dr. Taylor has demonstrated that the process works for other organs as well—opening a door in the field of organ transplantation. It is significant in that the need for transplants continues to grow, while the supply of donor organs remains critically low.

The Biorepository Core (BRC) Lab at Texas Heart Institute

THI is home to the Biorepository Core Lab for the national network of cardiovascular stem cell research centers, the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), Cardiovascular Cell Therapy Research Network (CCTRN). As the biorepository for the Network, THI stores, catalogs and makes available for approved research adult stem cells to laboratories throughout the nation. The Biorepository Core, directed by Doris A. Taylor, PhD, Director of Regenerative Medicine Research at THI at St. Luke’s, and Adrian P. Gee, PhD, Professor of Medicine and Pediatrics and Director of the Center for Cell and Gene Therapy at Baylor College of Medicine, will store and characterize cells collected in CCTRN clinical trials. By conducting phenotype and cell function analyses in the context of clinical trials, the researchers at the Biorepository Core will aid in developing more effective stem cell therapies.

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