South Florida Hospital News
Thursday October 1, 2020

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December 2006 - Volume 3 - Issue 6


From Our Heart to Yours

Progress in research tends to be incremental, punctuated by long-awaited leaps and starts. Education, on the other hand, is a process of continuing effort and reward. The year 2006 brought both forms of accomplishment to the Florida Heart Research Institute. Since it is our mission to stop heart disease through research, education and prevention, we have an active program in both areas (research and education/prevention).

On the research side, we experienced both small incremental gains and a few exciting advances. Our work exploring the hormones of heart failure, those "distress signals" released by the heart when its fibers are severely stretched—the natriuretic peptides, has revealed some interesting possible answers to a troubling paradox. If BNP (called "brain" natriuretic peptide because it was originally discovered in brain tissue but subsequently found to be manufactured mostly in the heart) has profound therapeutic abilities to treat congestive heart failure (CHF) – lowers blood pressure, facilitates diuresis, etc – why is it that the BNP which is secreted in very high levels during CHF appears to have no impact in reversing the disease? Although there may well be other mechanisms at play which override the effectiveness of BNP, our research raises the possibility that the BNP manufactured in the CHF state may have altered genetic signals as well as alternated post-transcriptional proteonomic modifications that alter its effectiveness. At the same time, we may well have discovered an altered form of BNP which has great therapeutic potential.

In the area of bone marrow stem cell research, previous work has demonstrated that precursor, pleuripotent cells (i.e. stem cells) from human bone marrow may have the ability to localize to areas of heart injury and actually stimulate blood vessel growth and myocardial regeneration. We are currently trying to better define the signaling mechanisms which make this processes possible.

Our previous work demonstrated that periodic acceleration in a to-and-fro manner may have profoundly beneficial short and long-term physiologic effects. Findings from our laboratories this year have demonstrated that one such benefit may be in the area of preventing or treating reperfusion injury, a major impediment in the treatment of victims of cardiac arrest and heart attack.

Numerous studies of our clinical databases were reported this year to document the benefits of heart surgery in the long-term quality of life of various patient groups—most notably in women and in the elderly. Likewise, methodological advances in our laboratories will hopefully enable us to better study the genetic substrate of sudden cardiac death.

In the area of education, this has been a banner year—not only in the performance of free cardiovascular risk factor screening as a public service to literally thousands of South Florida’s underserved residents, but in the development of exciting new initiatives to better translate this important component of prevention into the community. After organizing numerous local organizations and resources, we are embarking on a collaborative effort to bring this critical prevention message to the faith-based Pan African population through our Mission to Health program. Those who participate will receive screenings to identify their individual risks for heart disease, diabetes and obesity as well as a ten week educational program of fitness, diet, nutrition and the importance of healthy lifestyles. A final screening after the educational intervention will produce quantifiable outcome measures to see if the program did in fact reduce the group’s risks for disease. We look forward to reporting on the successes of this innovative chronic disease prevention program next year.

Our community involvement has revealed a need to work with local businesses to assist them with the development of customized strategies that they can employ to improve the cardiac health and well-being of their employees. Our Working to Health program offers innovative approaches to motivate employees to make healthy lifestyle choices, reduce absenteeism and increase productivity and job satisfaction.

At the Florida Heart Research Institute we are working hard to make 2007 a happier healthier New Year for us all.

Dr. Paul Kurlansky, board certified cardiothoracic surgeon, Director of Research at the Florida Heart Research Institute, can be reached at (305) 674-3154 or
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