Message from the director and chief

NOTE FROM THE DIRECTOR

When the University of Arizona established the Sarver Heart Center 30 years ago, the artificial heart was a truly amazing advance for treating patients with advanced heart disease.

The UA Sarver Heart Center was the brainchild of Dr. Jack Copeland (a renowned cardiothoracic surgeon) and Dr. Eugene Morkin (an extremely gifted cardiologist and heart muscle scientist). A lot has changed in the past 30 years, but one factor central to the Sarver Heart Center is the collaboration between clinical and basic science faculty critical to leading innovation. It is still common to find a cardiologist or other clinician discussing research ideas with Sarver Heart Center basic scientists.

I’m very excited to have the opportunity to collaborate with Sarver Heart Center Co-Director Carol Gregorio, PhD, who also serves as vice dean of innovation and development and chair of the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine at the UA College of Medicine – Tucson. She is also director of the Molecular Cardiovascular Research Program.

Historically, the conversation has centered around moving research from ‘bench to bedside,’ or from the laboratory to the patient-care setting. Now, with our focus on state-of-the-art approaches including genomics, imaging, modeling, advanced cell and molecular biology and biophysics, together with our human cardiac biorepository, we’re equally likely to take discoveries from the bedside to the bench and then back to the bedside in the form of precision medicine. We are using patient blood samples in the basic science setting to understand unique individual traits in cardiovascular medicine to ensure a future of more precise treatments targeted at each particular patient’s circumstances, genetics, environment and individual health or condition.

The more we understand how disease manifests in individuals, the more clinicians and scientists can collaborate to develop interventions that positively impact the course of human disease. With this vision, we are establishing an Innovation Fund in the Sarver Heart Center to be grounded in a Human Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell (iPSC) Core. This will set the foundation for our Center to be an international leader in human cardiovascular translational and regenerative medicine – a very bold vision for the next 10 years. It will be one of a number of iPSC facilities across the Tucson and Phoenix campuses, and the only one centered on cardiovascular diseases.

Often referred to as human “disease in a dish,” iPSC technology has the potential to completely change medicine in terms of understanding individual variation, underlying disease mechanisms, transforming and personalizing drug discovery and targeting treatments, sometimes at the level of correcting a single gene mutation.

Most human treatments first are developed in non-human models. The iPSC approach is a new and unique way to model human disease. Technology has advanced so that disease-causing mutations in iPS cells might be genetically corrected. Because experiments can now be done on cells grown from patient samples to recapitulate the cells in their bodies, this approach allows for the ultimate in personalized medicine – a mechanism to explore individualized treatments and cures in a patient’s own heart cells.

We can only imagine how far this game-changing advance will take us in the next 30 years. If you would like more information on ways to support the Innovation Fund or the iPSC Core and contribute to the critical broadening of the impact of the Sarver Heart Center in research and patient care, please contact me, 520-626-2000, nancysweitzer@shc.arizona.edu, or our senior director of development, Cheryl House, 520-626-6022 or chouse@email.arizona.edu.

All of us at Sarver Heart Center wish you a very healthy, happy New Year filled with joy, excitement and new discoveries of your own.

Director, UA Sarver Heart Center

About Nancy K. Sweitzer, MD, PhD


Nancy K. Sweitzer, MD, PhD Director, UA Sarver Heart Center Chief, Division of Cardiology