The McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine recently received $750,000 toward research efforts in the development of regenerative medicine therapies for cardiac failure from the William G. McGowan (pictured) Charitable Fund. The grant is aimed at improving survival rates in patients with heart failure. The focus of the McGowan Institute is on the development of new regenerative medicine-based therapies and the rapid translation of these emerging technologies to clinical assessment and use.
Proceeds from the grant will support research that is addressing the development of mechanical circulatory support technology for infants and children. The success with ventricular assist devices (VADs) as bridges to transplant or as bridges to recovery is widely recognized for adult cardiac patients. However, the pediatric sector for such therapies has been largely ignored until recently. Under the leadership of McGowan Institute physician/scientist Peter Wearden, MD, PhD, some dramatic progress is being made in the pediatric cardiac care sector. This research team is focusing on the development of miniaturized VADs. An adult VAD is about the size of an adult fist, which is much too large for an infant, and adult VADs do not have the appropriate functionality required for cardiac support of an infant. Fulfillment of this need will permit the treatment of infants and toddlers that have cardiac afflictions.
McGowan Institute scientists and engineers are also studying under this grant, methods to apply tissue engineering to improve the current Fontan procedure to help ameliorate problems for patients born with univentricular hearts. Since the advent of congenital heart surgery in the late 1950’s this affliction has remained one of the most difficult challenges for the surgeons and cardiologists caring for these children. Improvements will assist in rates of recovery and provide increased longevity and quality of life for patients in need of this therapy.
Also, tissue engineering is being studied for use in instances where a patient survives a myocardial infarction, but the long-term outcome can be adverse due to progressive ventricular failure as the weakened heart attempts to maintain cardiac output. McGowan Institute researchers are studying the possibility of reversing the course of adverse cardiac wall remodeling through the use of hydrogel materials that would act as bulking agents for the infarcted ventricular wall. If successful, a post-infarct treatment could minimize progressive deterioration of the heart.
The McGowan Charitable Fund was established to realize -- and to enlarge -- the magnificent potentials which Mr. McGowan foresaw in the future of the young, as well as the rewarding promises of medical research, and the critical need to enhance the role of American business by providing scholastic assistance to promising students. Based in Chicago, IL, the McGowan Fund operates through an involved board of directors whose members are familiar with the vision of Mr. McGowan and who are strategically situated geographically. While this confines the Fund's giving to those specific areas, it permits the organization to have a personal level of involvement in the programs it selects to support. Through this local and regional individual awareness, the fund recognizes undertakings of unique promise, innovation, and special needs.
Illustration: The William G. McGowan Charitable Fund, Inc.