MUSC researchers using genetics to tackle health disparities see more
Quenton Tompkins’ family tree is deeply rooted in rural McCormick County, South Carolina.
His grandfather was a sharecropper in McCormick. His mother, who turns 88 this month, grew up as the youngest of 24 children. Branches of aunts, uncles, and cousins now stretch from Florida to Chicago.
And although 48-year-old Tompkins has heard plenty of stories, his family holds its secrets, too.
He didn’t know until he was an adult that his grandfather died of leukemia. And he’s still unsure if his father’s bout with prostate cancer runs in the family. Tompkins’ mother and her siblings have dealt with a range of health issues, including diabetes, heart attacks, and strokes, but he still doesn’t know what killed his grandmother more than 70 years ago.
“Those are questions I go through personally,” said Tompkins, a lobbyist for the Medical University of South Carolina. “There’s another side to knowing where you come from.”
Twenty-two years ago, President Bill Clinton announced the completion of a “draft version” of the Human Genome Project, a breakthrough he described as “the language in which God created life.” He predicted that scientists, armed with genetic discoveries, would find cures for Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, Parkinson’s disease, and diabetes in the coming years.
Clinton’s prediction, of course, hasn’t yet come to pass. But researchers in Charleston are hopeful that a large genetics research project underway across South Carolina may help scientists address some of the state’s persistent health disparities, which disproportionately impact its Black residents and regularly rank among the nation’s worst. Enjoy the rest of this article compliments of Kaiser Health News.
Minimally invasive ‘Barostim’ device could improve quality of life for heart failure patients see more
Two doctors at MUSC Health are the first at an academic medical center and only the second in the world to use a new, minimally invasive procedure to implant a heart failure treatment device.
Both doctors are women in heavily male-dominated specialties. Vascular surgeon Jean Marie Ruddy, M.D., is principal investigator at the MUSC site for the trial of this new implantation method for Barostim. Cardiac electrophysiologist Anne Kroman, D.O., Ph.D., is site co-principal investigator of the BATwire percutaneous implant study, using the Barostim Neo System.
Barostim won breakthrough device approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2019 following successful trials led by MUSC Health cardiologist Michael Zile, M.D. The device uses electrical impulses to stimulate the nerve that regulates blood pressure, inducing the blood vessels to relax.
Although the device can’t reverse heart failure, it can improve patients’ quality of life, said MUSC Cardiologist Ryan Tedford, M.D., section chief of heart failure, medical director of cardiac transplantation and professor in the College of Medicine.
His patient became the first at MUSC Health to undergo the new method of implantation last week and is doing well.
The original method of implantation required a vascular surgeon to make an incision in the patient’s neck to insert the electrode. But in a “feat of engineering,” the new method being tested would enable the device to be implanted through a wire using ultrasound guidance, Ruddy said.
“This is what we call a ‘first-in-man study.” It’s a new way to deliver the same technology but to save the patient from an incision in the side of the neck,” she explained.
“There are millions of patients living with heart failure with reduced ejection fraction in the U.S. who may be able to benefit from Barostim. This new implantation method could eventually be used for most patients who may benefit from Barostim and represents a step forward in the evolution of the therapy to be even more simple to implant,” explained a spokesperson with CVRx, the company that created Barostim.
For more information about the procedure, check out this MUSC Catalyst News Story.
Founded in 1824 in Charleston, MUSC is the state’s only comprehensive academic health system, with a unique mission to preserve and optimize human life in South Carolina through education, research and patient care. Each year, MUSC educates more than 3,000 students in six colleges – Dental Medicine, Graduate Studies, Health Professions, Medicine, Nursing and Pharmacy – and trains more than 850 residents and fellows in its health system. MUSC brought in more than $327.6 million in research funds in fiscal year 2021, leading the state overall in research funding. MUSC also leads the state in federal and National Institutes of Health funding, with more than $220 million. For information on academic programs, visit musc.edu.
As the health care system of the Medical University of South Carolina, MUSC Health is dedicated to delivering the highest quality and safest patient care while educating and training generations of outstanding health care providers and leaders to serve the people of South Carolina and beyond. Patient care is provided at 14 hospitals with approximately 2,500 beds and five additional hospital locations in development; more than 350 telehealth sites, with connectivity to patients’ homes; and nearly 750 care locations situated in all regions of South Carolina. In 2021, for the seventh consecutive year, U.S. News & World Report named MUSC Health the No. 1 hospital in South Carolina. To learn more about clinical patient services, visit muschealth.org.
MUSC and its affiliates have collective annual budgets totaling $4.4 billion. The nearly 25,000 MUSC team members include world-class faculty, physicians, specialty providers, scientists, students, affiliates and care team members who deliver and support groundbreaking education, research, and patient care.
CVRx is focused on the development and commercialization of Barostim™, the first medical technology approved by FDA that uses neuromodulation to improve the symptoms of patients with heart failure. Barostim is an implantable device that delivers electrical pulses to baroreceptors located in the wall of the carotid artery. Baroreceptors activate the body’s baroreflex, which in turn triggers an autonomic response to the heart. The therapy is designed to restore balance to the autonomic nervous system and thereby reduce the symptoms of heart failure. Barostim received the FDA Breakthrough Device designation and is FDA-approved for use in heart failure patients in the U.S. It has also received the CE Mark for heart failure and resistant hypertension in the European Economic Area. To learn more about Barostim, visit the company’s website.
A South Carolina scientist works to solve a major health problem see more
Pediatric patients suffering from heart issues are treated with the existing adult surgical solutions, requiring repeated surgeries as the child grows. To understand the problems with current technologies, bioengineer Naren Vyavahare consults with clinicians and applies this knowledge to innovative, adjusted strategies. He develops new solutions in the lab and works with other experts and private sector companies to bring them to the marketplace. The inspiring impact of his commitment: a groundbreaking discovery that reduces surgical risk, patient and family trauma, and financial costs for pediatric patients that will last centuries.
In this episode, Naren Vyavahare joins our hosts Joseph Nother and Laura Corder to talk about the roles passion, teamwork, and plenty of research play in developing life-changing solutions for congenital heart disease. Listen as Naren Vyavahare talks about understanding “the why,” consulting with clinicians, and building a team of experts in business, cardiology, and research to discover the solution. Listen to the full podcast now.
Multimillion-dollar grant to support heart health research at Clemson University see more
Clemson University bioengineers picked Valentine’s Day to announce $4.1 million in grants to support new heart health research.
Will Richardson and Naren Vyavahare are conducting research with the potential to affect millions of patients who suffer from many forms of cardiovascular disease and related illness, including heart failure, hypertension, chronic kidney disease and Type 2 diabetes, according to a university news release.
Richardson, an assistant professor of bioengineering, is creating computer models aimed at providing better treatment for cardiac fibrosis, a condition that contributes to heart failure. As many as 60% of patients die within five years of developing heart failure, which afflicts 6.5 million Americans, Richardson said in the news release.
No drugs have been approved to treat cardiac fibrosis specifically, and doctors are often left with trial-and-error experimentation when treating patients who have it, he said in the release.
Richardson said he hopes his research will lead to a day when measurements from a patient’s blood or tissue sample can be plugged into mathematical equations based on how molecules interact in the body. Overnight, patients would have personalized risk assessments and treatments plan, he said in the release.
Details about his research is available online.
Vyavahare, the Hunter Endowed Chair of Bioengineering, is working on what could be the first treatment to reverse vascular calcification, a condition that occurs when mineral deposits build up on blood vessel walls and stiffen them, according to the news release. It is most prevalent in aging patients and those with chronic kidney disease and Type 2 diabetes, Vyavahare said. Complications from vascular calcification can range from hypertension to death.
The nanoparticles that Vyavahare is developing are many times smaller than the width of a human hair and would deliver two medicines to calcified blood vessels. One medicine would remove the mineral deposits that cause blood vessels to become calcified, and another would return elasticity to the blood vessels.
More details about his work is online.
The Richardson and Vyavahare projects were both funded through the National Institutes of Health’s R01 program. Richardson is receiving $1.9 million, and Vyavahare is receiving $2.2 million, the news release said.
Anand Gramopadhye, dean of the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences, congratulated Richardson and Vyvahare on their grants.
Agneta Simionescu, an assistant professor of bioengineering, has also received $1.38 million through the R01 program. The Simionescu award was announced in November and is aimed at better understanding cardiovascular disease in patients with diabetes, the news release said.
Richardson and Simionescu were among the faculty members trained as part of SC BioCRAFT, a National Institutes of Health Center of Excellence. The center’s primary goal is to increase the number of South Carolina biomedical researchers who are supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health.
Vyavahare leads SC BioCRAFT, which stands for the South Carolina Bioengineering Center for Regeneration and Formation of Tissues.