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University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences

University of Pittsburgh Receives Grant to Study Heart Pumps

PITTSBURGH, Feb. 14 – The University of Pittsburgh and the University of Michigan have been awarded $13.3 million to explore the potential benefits of heart devices for the large and growing group of Americans with heart failure. 

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and HeartWare®, a maker of left ventricular assist devices (LVADs), are sponsoring the study of earlier access to devices that support the circulation of patients with failing hearts. In REVIVE-IT, researchers will compare whether non-transplant eligible patients with heart failure less advanced than that of current LVAD recipients do better with implanted devices than with current medical therapy.

Principal investigators include Robert Kormos, M.D., director of the UPMC Artificial Heart Program and co-director of the UPMC Heart Transplantation Program; Keith Aaronson, M.D., M.S., medical director of the heart transplant program and Center for Circulatory Support at the U-M Cardiovascular Center; and Francis A. Pagani, M.D., Ph.D., surgical director of the heart transplant program and the Center for Circulatory Support at the U-M.

“In REVIVE-IT, we’ll test the theory that heart failure patients who are not heart transplant candidates and whose conditions impair their daily lives, but who have not suffered serious consequences such as organ damage, malnourishment or immobility, would benefit from earlier implantation of an LVAD,” said Dr. Kormos, who also is a professor of surgery at the University of Pittsburgh.

Dennis McNamara M.D., director of the UPMC Heart Failure Transplantation Program, and Christian Bermudez, M.D., a cardiac surgeon at UPMC, will be the principal investigators of the Pittsburgh-based arm of the trial.

Heart failure for most patients can be caused by a past heart attack or certain conditions such as hypertension, heart muscle diseases, abnormal heart valves, or diabetes. LVADs currently are used in patients with advanced heart failure as a last resort to help them survive the wait for a heart transplant, or serve as a permanent alternative to heart transplantation.

“This trial is a great opportunity for us to explore whether this technology currently being used by the sickest patients also can help a broader group of people,” said Dr. McNamara, who also leads a core program of the grant aiming to identify new blood biomarkers to predict the potential for heart muscle recovery and the risk for complications of LVAD placement.

John Gorcsan, M.D., professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh, will direct the echocardiographic core lab for quantitative analysis of the study.

REVIVE-IT will study HeartWare’s battery-operated continuous blood flow pump that’s surgically placed within the heart and the pericardial space surrounding the heart.

The pilot study will include 100 patients from selected U.S. hospitals, including the U-M and UPMC. Twelve additional sites have been selected. The national study will be coordinated by the U-M’s Michigan Institute for Clinical Health Research.

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