Columbia scientists present research findings at AHA Scientific Sessions

November 14, 2006

CHICAGO, November 10, 2006 - Columbia University Medical Center scientists will present the latest research findings in a wide range of cardiovascular areas at the 2006 American Heart Association Scientific Sessions in Chicago, Nov.12-15. Columbia's groundbreaking medical research presentations at AHA this year include:


Robert Kass, Ph.D., chairman of the department of Pharmacology at Columbia University Medical Center , will present the latest research on the discovery of a potential molecular culprit for atrial fibrillation (AF), the most common arrhythmias in the human heart, which can be a precursor for stroke. Dr. Kass has found evidence that hyper phosphorylation of the KCNQ1/KCNE1 potassium ion channel can predispose tissue to rapid and spontaneos electrical events, a hallmark of AF. This is the first report to discuss the hyper-phosphorylation of the KCNQ1/KCNE1 pottasium ion channel, and Dr. Kass hopes that these findings will lead to the development of drugs that can disrupt hyperphosphorylation of this channel, thereby allowing prevention and treatment for this serious cardiac arrhythmia, atrial fibrillation.


Mario Deng, MD, assistant professor of Medicine in the division of Cardiology and director of the Cardiac Transplantation Research at Columbia University Medical Center, will present his laboratory's research on the relationship between genes and the rejection of transplanted hearts. Dr. Deng reconstructed the network of genes that are active at the time of heart transplant rejection and those active when the transplant is not rejected. The researchers found that different genes were active in the white blood cells of patients who rejected the transplant. These findings will hopefully help to develop new non-invasive anti-rejection diagnostic tests and target molecules for immuno-suppression and ultimately improve survival rates and quality of life after organ transplantation.


Mark Russo, M.D., M.S., a researcher at Columbia University's International Center for Health Outcomes and Innovation Research in New York will present findings from a study of the cost of medical management in chronic end-stage heart failure patients. The study found that despite the terminal nature of end-stage heart failure, costs and resource utilization increased dramatically as death approached. Dr. Russo and his colleagues report that on average between $82,963 and $97,420 was spent treating these patients during their last 6 months of life, making end-stage heart failure many times more costly than other terminal diseases such as lung cancer and pancreatic cancer. These high costs were largely driven by in-hospital care. In fact, chronic end-stage heart failure patients spent nearly 1 in 4 days in the hospital during their last 3 months of life. With between 60,000 and 100,000 people in the U.S. dying from end-stage heart failure each year, the researchers estimated that as much as $8 billion per year are spent on end-stage heart failure with less than 6 months to live. Researchers concluded that, despite the poor prognosis of these patients, this aggressive use of medical resources is more consistent with prolongation of life than palliation of disease. Given these findings, Dr. Russo says clinicians and researchers must find alternative management strategies that improve outcomes, minimize suffering, and/or reduce expenditures.


Fiona See, Ph.D., postdoctoral research fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Silviu Itescu, M.B., B.S., will present two groundbreaking abstracts on repairing damage from heart failure with stem cells at AHA this year. In the first study, the researchers isolated adult human stem cells from bone marrow using a novel stem cell marker. They administered these cells in a rat model of heart failure by direct injection into the heart muscle and observed improvements in cardiac function and preservation of cardiac structure. They then examined the mechanisms by which these stem cells produce their beneficial effects. In examination of the rat hearts, the researchers found low rates of stem cell survival, leading them to hypothesize and then demonstrate in the second study that when these cells are injected into the heart, they release chemicals which promote the survival of cardiac muscle and the growth of new blood vessels and thereby support cardiac function. They will also present data which profiles the chemicals that these cells secrete.
Columbia University Medical Center provides international leadership in pre-clinical and clinical research, in medical and health sciences education, and in patient care. The medical center trains future leaders and includes the dedicated work of many physicians, scientists, nurses, dentists, and public health professionals at the College of Physicians & Surgeons, the College of Dental Medicine, the School of Nursing, the Mailman School of Public Health, the biomedical departments of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and allied research centers and institutions.

Columbia University Medical Center

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