Research and Clinical Trials
The Maryland Comprehensive Heart Center is constantly conducting new research to investigate the causes of heart disease and find new ways to treat it, thereby improving the care and treatments we offer our patients.
Several examples of the cutting-edge research being performed by Maryland Heart Center experts are listed below.
Stem cell therapy for babies with hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS) - Sunjay Kaushal, M.D., Ph.D.
Sunjay Kaushal, M.D., Ph.D., pediatric cardiac surgeon at the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital, is planning a clinical trial that will be the first of its kind in the U.S. for babies with hypoplastic left heart syndrome. The clinical trial will involve taking a baby's own cardiac stem cells, nurturing those cardiac stem cells to regenerate in a laboratory environment and then after a few months, injecting the stem cells back into the baby’s own heart, all within the first year of life. The injection of these healthy regenerated cells from the baby's own body, along with traditional surgical treatments necessary for babies with HLHS, should help compensate for the heart muscle that is under developed on the left side. Without surgical intervention, babies born with HLHS will die within the first week of life.
Novel Ways to Treat Atrial Fibrillation - Timm-Michael Dickfeld, M.D.
Dr. Dickfeld's research focuses on novel approaches to make the ablation of abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia) more successful, especially complex arrhythmias such as ventricular tachycardia and atrial fibrillation, which have had only moderate treatment success in the past.
In close collaboration with the Department of Radiology and Division of Nuclear Medicine, we are able to approach these abnormal heart rhythms in novel and comprehensive ways by using computer tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), positron emission tomography (PET) and three-dimensional ultrasound. This allows the physician to visualize the heart in completely new ways and can be used for the development of new treatment strategies. These novel concepts are being evaluated in computer simulations and animal studies and are partially already available to improve patient care.
Cardiac Allograft Vasculopathy Research Laboratory
Using models of cardiac transplantation, doctors investigate the role of tobacco exposure on rejection, cardiac allograft vasculopathy and renal failure by studying inflammatory and oxidative stress pathways. These studies will serve to pave the way for clinical studies of new biomarkers specific to tobacco smoke risk, provide insight toward novel targets of therapy and open the door for the clinical trials in the setting of chronic atherosclerosis and acute coronary syndromes.
Genetic Variation and Heart Failure - Stephen B. Liggett, M.D.
Dr. Liggett is at the forefront of researchers into genetic variations that may help explain the effectiveness of heart failure medications known as beta-blockers in different people.
a research team led by investigators at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore and the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis concluded that a genetic variation, found predominantly in African Americans, protects some people with heart failure, enabling them to live longer than expected. See related news release for more information.
Previously, researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore and the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Denver identified a common genetic variation that could help determine whether a person with heart failure would benefit from beta-blockers, a class of drugs used to treat chronic heart failure. The findings are significant because it often takes several months to determine if a specific beta blocker is working for a patient.
"For the first time, we have a genetic test that will help guide us to the best treatment for individual patients with heart failure and provide what has been called personal medicine," says the study's principal investigator, Stephen B. Liggett, M.D., professor of medicine and physiology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and director of its cardiopulmonary genomics program.
Niacin Plus Statin Vs. Statin - Michael Miller, M.D.
Does adding a form of long-acting niacin to one of the most common cholesterol lowering drugs do a better job of delaying the onset of heart attack, stroke, blocked arteries or death from cardiovascular disease? That is the question that University of Maryland cardiologists hope to answer as they participate in a national study. The study, called AIM-HIGH, is a multi-center, randomized, double-blind clinical trial that compares a combination of extended-release niacin plus simvastatin to simvastatin alone.
Michael Miller, director of preventive cardiology at the University of Maryland Medical Center and associate professor of medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine is the study's principal investigator in Maryland.