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University of Pittsburgh receives NIH funding to develop heart assist device for infants

PITTSBURGH, April 28 The University of Pittsburgh's McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine has been awarded a five-year $4.5 million contract from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to develop a heart assist device for infants. Working with Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University and industry partners, the Pitt researchers envision the pediatric ventricular assist device (PVAD) to be about the size of a quarter, with features designed to meet the special needs of patients with congenital and acquired heart defects who are as young or small as a newborn baby.

Principal investigator for the contract is Harvey S. Borovetz, Ph.D., professor and chairman, department of bioengineering, University of Pittsburgh School of Engineering, and Robert L. Hardesty Professor of Surgery at the School of Medicine.

The only means of mechanical support currently available in the United States for infants and children up to age 2 is ECMO, or extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, which can only be applied for up to several weeks and completely immobilizes patients with its elaborate network of tubes and medical equipment. Despite it being standard practice for nearly 30 years for pediatric patients of all ages who are in heart failure, its use is associated with a high death rate. Less than half of children and infants survive the therapy. Larger children sometimes have the option of being supported by ventricular assist devices (VADs) that have been designed with the adult patient in mind, but no devices currently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are small enough to be implanted in infants.

"Historically, infants and toddlers have been overlooked by technology development. Yet the smallest of our patients have the greatest need because the only means of support available to them is ECMO, which has unacceptably high mortality and complication rates. We hope to be able to develop a device that will allow more
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Contact: Lisa Rossi
RossiL@upmc.edu
412-647-3555
University of Pittsburgh Medical Center
28-Apr-2004


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