The research is part of a new program, the Specialized Centers of Clinically Oriented Research (SCCOR) program, which is designed to foster multidisciplinary collaborations so that basic research advances are rapidly translated to clinical care. This research also supports the NIH roadmap initiative unveiled last fall by NIH Director Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D.
"These centers address a critical public health need for research that examines the basis of congenital and acquired heart disease in children," said Acting NHLBI Director Barbara Alving, M.D. "By understanding the choreography of molecular events that creates a four-chambered organ with valves, vessels, and electrical wiring, we can hope to better prevent, diagnose and treat pediatric heart disorders," she added.
Birth defects are a leading cause of infant mortality. Cardiovascular malformations, which are present in approximately one percent of live births, are the largest contributor to deaths from birth defects. Despite the enormous strides researchers have made in understanding heart development at the cellular level, in many cases the underlying cause of the cardiovascular defect is unknown. And while clinical advances have made medical and surgical treatment of complex heart defects possible in the tiniest of infants, the survivors still face numerous challenges.
"If we can improve the odds of these children surviving-and increase their quality of life-then this program will have been a success," said Gail Pearson, M.D., Sc.D., leader of the NHLBI's Heart Development, Function and Failure Scientific Research Group.
Pearson noted that February 14 is Congenital Heart Defects Awareness Day. This national awar
Contact: NHLBI Communications Office
NIH/National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute