Tag Archives: heart

Surprise, surprise… Viagara efficacy is gender-dependent

iStock_000000357228SmallAlmost 30 years ago, scientists started developing a drug to treat heart failure. They were looking for a drug that would vasodilate arteries, lower blood pressure, and reduce strain on the heart. In clinical trials to determine safety, male participants reported some unexpected side effects… you get the picture. Based on these side effects, researchers switched gears, and Viagara proved to be a very successful drug in the treatment of erectile dysfunction.

It’s no stretch to see what Viagara has done for men. But as doctors now reconsider the drug as a treatment for heart failure, new research shows that taking gender into consideration is really important. By working with a mouse model that mimics heart failure, researchers looked at the difference between females with different estrogen levels. They found that the hormone estrogen affects the potential benefits of the drug. Based on this new research, it seems that the drug only benefits female mice with higher estrogen levels.

The connection between the drug and estrogen levels shouldn’t be ignored. Hopefully this research will result in better gender-specific treatment strategies, and maybe women will get to benefit from Viagara in a completely different way! Read more here:


Heart attack prevention by wearing a SLEEVE on your HEART?

iStock_000026449104SmallIt’s the ultimate pacemaker- a sleeve, fitted over the heart, that acts as an artificial pericardium and keeps the heart beating at a consistent rate.

Researchers used a 3D printer to create an exact replica of a rabbit’s heart, then built an elastic silicon membrane around the model. This circuit-lined membrane is able to sense abnormalities in heart rhythm, and it can apply electrical stimuli to the heart in a way that could prevent the heart from stopping. Awesome.

It’s possible that this technology could be used on human hearts in about a decade. Unlike current pacemakers, which aren’t specifically made for a particular person, this would be a custom piece of equipment- unique to each patient! It also has the capability to cover the entire surface of the heart, making it more effective than 2D devices. It has the capability to sense pH, temperature, mechanical strain, and electrical, thermal and optical stimulation. Watch the device in action and read more about it here.

Don’t look now- but organ transplants are about to be REVOLUTIONIZED!

iStock_000021023060SmallOn average, a heart or a lung kept on ice will only last about 6 hours outside of the body. The organs suffer some damage during this time, so the chances of transplant success decrease as time passes. This severely limits the ability for a recipient to be able to receive donor organs- a team needs to be able to deliver the organ to the recipient’s location in a relatively short period of time, so it’s impossible for a patient in New York to receive a heart from a donor in Hawaii. And unfortunately, desperately needed donor organs are sometimes wasted because there are no potential recipients within range to accept them. 

But that may be about to change. Meet TransMedics’s Organ Care System. This amazing machine can pump oxygenated blood through hearts, lungs, livers and kidneys- AND monitor their performance! This could potentially increase the window of opportunity for recipients by keeping organs viable for longer periods of time, and improve patient outcomes by giving doctors a better idea of the chances of success for the transplanted organ!

Thanks to animal-based research that started over 100 years ago, the success of long-term tissue grafts and the ability to minimize organ rejection has saved many lives. The limitation was ice; and if study results are positive, the Organ Care System could revolutionize organ transplants!

Watch these videos of a lung and a heart in the machine- it’s amazing!

A father, a rare disease, and a second chance

iStock_000014156140SmallHave you ever heard of Pompe disease? It’s a rare degenerative disorder that affects approximately 1 in 40,000 people, and it causes progressive muscle weakness. And children with the disease usually died of heart failure within a few years- that is, until one father did something about it.

John Crowley is a proud father of three, and two of his children have Pompe disease. After his children were diagnosed at extremely young ages and he found out that there was no cure for the disease, he quit his job as a drug company executive and started his own biotech firm- and developed a successful treatment that would keep his childrens’ hearts from failing.

While his children- now 16 and 17 years old- are still facing challenges from this disease, they are most definitely a shining example of hope and determination. A modern-day “Superman” of a father stopped everything to give his kids a chance. And that’s what we need- superheroes on a mission to raise awareness and show the ingenuity and passion required to develop new treatments and cures for rare diseases.

YOU can help. Speak up, raise awareness for these diseases and the children fighting them, and advocate for basic science and advancements made possible through research. Pass this on- share it with your friends and family, and let one father be an example of what we can do with the right amount of determination!


A child is always in a mother’s heart!

baby feetThe bond between a mother and her child can be incredibly powerful. But research shows that it’s more than just emotional- a mother can carry a part of her child with her throughout her life!

During pregnancy, a mother provides her baby with warmth, safety, and essential nutrients. But it’s not all one-sided- the baby protects its mother, too! Through the blood exchange via the placenta, cells from the baby enter the mother’s bloodstream and can migrate through her body, ultimately settling in the heart, brain and other tissues.

This specific research study showed that these cells were less common in the brains of women who had Alzheimer’s disease. Earlier research has shown that fetal cells that remain in a mother’s tissues can help her fight off breast cancer, and research in mice showed that fetal cells literally helped heal a mother’s heart- when a pregnant mouse had a heart attack, fetal stem cells rushed to the area and began changing into new heart cells! That mother-child bond is stronger than you thought!

So if you’re a mom, regardless of where your child is, it might help you to know that a part of your child will always be in your heart- literally!



Her Heart Will Go On

iStock_000022911974XSmallTragedy. Heartbreak. The death of a loved one is difficult to handle, and we never have all the answers we need. But thanks to biomedical research, organ donation can bring something good out of the tragedy of death. Heart transplants have been successful for over 40 years, with 60+ years of crucial animal studies leading up to the very first heart transplant in 1967. The video below, which was shown on Good Morning America a couple of years ago, has begun to circulate around the internet again- and after you watch the video, you’ll understand why. A mother, who lost her teenage daughter, gets to meet the woman whose life was saved and hear her daughter’s heart beat again. This story is sad, beautiful, and hopeful, and is a perfect example of the reason why people in the field of biomedical research are so passionate about what they do.




For more information on animal contributions to transplant research: