Heart Surgeon Zain Khalpey Appointed to UA Sarver Heart Center’s Tony A. Marnell, Sr. Endowed Chair for Research in Cardiac Surgery


Dr. Zain KhalpeyZain Khalpey, MD, PhD, MRCS (Eng), associate professor of surgery in the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery at the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson has been named the Tony A. Marnell, Sr. Endowed Chair for Research in Cardiac Surgery at the UA Sarver Heart Center.

Dr. Khalpey also serves as surgical director of the Heart Transplant and Mechanical Circulatory Support Program at The University of Arizona Medical Center – University Campus.

“With surgical interests in adult and pediatric heart transplant; mechanical circulatory support, including ventricular-assist devices and total artificial heart; ex vivo lung perfusion; arrhythmia surgery and minimally invasive mitral valve surgery, Dr. Khalpey embodies the spirit of the Marnell chair,” said Carol C. Gregorio, PhD, interim director of the UA Sarver Heart Center.

“Dr. Khalpey’s research truly holds great promise for taking transplantation surgery to a new horizon,” said Steve Goldschmid, MD, dean of the UA College of Medicine – Tucson.

The Marnell Endowed Chair was established by an estate gift from Mr. Marnell, who understood the importance of medical research and the resources that are required to advance medical science. The endowment was established at the UA Sarver Heart Center in gratitude to Dr. Jack G. Copeland, who performed Mr. Marnell’s heart transplant procedure in 1989, giving him 12 more years of an active, happy life.

“I am humbled by the honor of this appointment and hope to memorialize the Marnell family’s wishes through my work,” said Dr. Khalpey.

“The novel thinking of Dr. Khalpey will help direct the future of cardiac surgery,” said Michael Teodori, MD, interim chief, Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery. “He has tremendous promise as a surgeon who successfully will bridge the gap between the theories of basic science research and practical innovation in clinical medicine and surgery.”

About Dr. Khalpey’s research

In his research role at the UA, Dr. Khalpey is director of the Ex Vivo Lung Program, Clinical and Translational Cardiothoracic Research and the Cardiopulmonary Stem Cell Bank. The Ex Vivo Lung Program offers a method of improving the quality of lungs removed from donor cadavers, making more lungs suitable for transplantation.

His research on translational tissue regeneration evolved from past doctoral basic science studies in metabolomics (the metabolites in a biological cell, tissue, organ or organism, which are the end products of cellular processes) and cell survival.

His laboratory at the UA focuses on basic and translational research involving organogenesis (the formation and development of organs), organ preservation and tissue regeneration. He also is pioneering the use of a 3-D bioprinter to aid in his organogenesis and tissue regeneration goals. His team currently is working on a 3-D bioprinter that can print using “bioink” containing a patient’s own stem cells.

Dr. Khalpey is engaged in ex vivo reconditioning of marginal human hearts and lungs, which will generate functional lung and heart tissue that ultimately can be used for transplantation. This reconditioning process uses human cadaveric lungs that are decellularized (chemically stripped of their cells, leaving behind the extracellular tissue) to create a functional lung bioscaffold. This structure then can be “re-seeded” with autologous (a patient’s own) stem cells to rebuild the organ.

With limited hearts available for transplantation, Dr. Khalpey is initiating “bridge-to-regeneration” trials in which autologous stem cells are injected into a patient’s failing heart to offer hope for increased regeneration and recovery.

Dr. Khalpey, who came to the UA from Harvard Medical School (Brigham and Women’s Hospital) and Columbia University in New York City, has published more than 100 manuscripts, abstracts and book chapters on heart and lung transplantation involving basic science and clinical outcome studies. He is an American Heart Association reviewer, Early Career Reviewer for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and a member of the UA Institutional Review Board (IRB).

He has received numerous teaching and institutional awards, including the Hunterian Medal and Professorship of Surgery from Royal College of Surgeons, England; the Winston Churchill Medal, bestowed by HRH Queen Elizabeth II, Winston Churchill Memorial Trust, London, UK; Excellence in Teaching Award, Harvard University; United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Fellowship from Switzerland and France; and the Solly Medal and Prize for Surgery from the University of London.