Jefferson Scientist Receives Award From The Whitaker Foundation
Edward Lankford, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Pathology at Jefferson Medical College, was one of 20 researchers from 19 universities who recently received Biomedical Engineering Research Grants from The Whitaker Foundation.
These grants help promising new investigators establish research careers. Dr. Lankford’s award of $210,000 will support his research on the functional recovery of failing cardiomyocytes. He will explore changes occurring in human hearts that undergo placement of implanted pumps. Such devices, which assist the failing heart by pumping blood, are inserted in individuals awaiting heart transplants, who otherwise might not survive until a heart is available.
It has been observed that patients’ hearts, when supported by these devices, shrink and begin pumping more strongly, and Dr. Lankford hopes to understand the cellular changes that are responsible for this improvement. This, in turn, may enable physicians to understand why the heart function deteriorates and lead to a dramatically better alternative to heart transplantation for treating heart failure. The research requires the design, construction, and use of a new device to study very small samples of human heart tissue for the tissue’s ability to contract and perform work.
“Since heart failure is the most common reason for hospitalization today and there is an insufficient number of hearts available for transplantation, most patients will not receive transplants,” Dr. Lankford noted. “Therefore, we need to be able to coax the failing heart into sustaining the patient’s life and some level of activity for as long as possible. This research should help us understand how the heart muscle cells adapt to the load imposed on them, and allow us to design dramatically new therapy for heart failure. We are very excited about the potential of this research that we will be able to conduct with the three-year Whitaker Foundation grant.”
The Whitaker Foundation of Rosslyn, VA, is a private, nonprofit foundation dedicated to improving human health through the support of biomedical engineering. It was established in 1975 upon the death of U.A. Whitaker, founder and chief executive officer of AMP Incorporated, now the world’s largest manufacturer of electrical connectors and connecting devices. The Foundation has awarded more than $450 million to colleges and universities for faculty research, graduate fellowships, and program development in biomedical engineering.
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