SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A San Diego State University biologist has won an $8.5 million, five-year federal grant to conduct research into using stem cells to treat heart failure.
The award from the National Institutes of Health will enable Mark Sussman to learn how the heart heals and find ways stem cells can help the heart repair itself.
"We now know that the damaged heart attempts to repair itself following injury, but the ability to heal is limited by many factors," Sussman said. "Our research program centers on understanding and clearing away these limitations to restore cardiac function and quality of life to patients suffering from the devastating effects of heart failure, which is the number one cause of hospitalization for the elderly."
Sussman, chief research scientist of the SDSU Integrated Regenerative Research Institute, will study cells from heart failure patients to learn how to modify stem cells that would increase the heart's regenerative potential.
He hopes the research will lead to less expensive treatments and reduce the need for transplants, which are difficult for patients.
The professor said previous investigations found that heart disease not only killed muscle cells, but stem cells, too.
"Loss of stem cells and their healing properties takes a bad situation and makes it worse," Sussman said. "The heart is not only injured but now it also becomes unable to recover and that is how it progresses toward eventual failure."
Medical researchers from UC San Diego will also take part in the study.
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