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Clinical Trials & Research

Clinical Trials & Research

Cardiovascular Research Institute

Cardiovascular disease continues to be the leading killer among adults in the United States and is a major cause of disability. It also greatly diminishes the quality of life for millions of people.

Despite this mounting public health challenge, medicine is closing in on the causes and cures of many cardiovascular diseases. And some of the most advanced research is being done at the Allegheny Health Network Cardiovascular Institute.

Building on more than a century of innovation, the Institute is leading the way in the development of new devices, medications and technologies that are revolutionizing care for patients across the spectrum of heart disease.

The Institute’s research program spans a diverse range of investigative areas, including basic, translational, clinical, surgical and imaging research. In addition, the Institute is a partner in more than 100 clinical trials, giving patients access to some of the newest and most promising treatment options.

Among its current research endeavors, the Cardiovascular Institute is:

  • Using gene therapy as a way to better treat and ultimately prevent pulmonary hypertension (PAH), while minimizing the side effects associated with medications such as Prostacyclin. Furthermore, researchers hope to use the Institute’s growing genomic analysis capabilities to diagnose patients carrying PAH-associated genes early in life. That could help to prevent the disease from occurring years later.
  • Testing a device that is designed to reduce blood pressure by using mild electrical signals to influence the body’s blood pressure regulation system (called the baroreceptor). This could fundamentally change the way drug-resistant hypertension is treated and benefit patients who are at the greatest risk for heart attacks, strokes, kidney disease and heart failure.
  • Evaluating how high-dosed statins—a cholesterol-lowering drug—may impact coronary artery disease.
  • Testing a pressure sensor to monitor pressure in the pulmonary arteries of patients with heart failure.
  • Studying gene expression patterns in circulating cells that could predict the presence of coronary artery disease.
  • Examining saphenous vein ablation as a possible treatment for varicose veins.
  • Developing a simple blood test that could reliably track the progression of PAH and allow for more aggressive and timely therapeutic interventions.
  • Evaluating the benefit of a percutaneous left ventricular assist device during high-risk coronary interventions. This will allow patients who are considered to be poor candidates for coronary intervention safely undergo the procedure without the need for surgery.
  • Using cardiac MRI to identify a precise anatomical marker that indicates which patients with patent foramen ovale (PFO) are at risk for stroke or heart attack. Patients could then undergo a minimally invasive catheterization repair of the foramen ovale and avoid the need for lifelong dependency on blood-thinning medication.
  • Exploring the use of cardiac MRI to evaluate pulmonary hypertension patients with right ventricular dysfunction.
  • Using cardiac MRI to identify a notable difference in the manner in which the thick heart with aortic stenosis fails to regress after surgery in those with concomitant coronary artery disease. This has led to a proposed strategy for defining the optimal time for surgical correction.
  • Working with several international companies specializing in magnet design and construction to develop a new class of magnets that would make MRI technology faster and less expensive.
  • Working with Carnegie-Mellon University to develop a mathematical model that could help clinicians to better track the development of abdominal aortic aneurysms. By knowing in advance which aneurysms are most likely to rupture, clinicians could intervene sooner with aggressive treatment that could prevent death or disability.
  • Evaluating a novel counter pulsation device in patients with advanced heart failure who are failing medical therapy.
  • Evaluating cells harvested from the pulmonary artery to identify a patient’s risk for developing pulmonary vascular disease and determine which drug will be most effective in treating this condition.
  • Participating with a group of prestigious U.S. research center in the Pulmonary Hypertension Breakthrough Initiative—a unique thoracic transplantation translational study that is being funded by the American Heart Association. This collaborative research study could one day lead to a cure for pulmonary vascular disease.
  • Evaluating a new treatment for cardiac amyloidosis.
  • Evaluating carotid artery plaques to establish a link between bacterial infections and atherosclerosis.
  • Identifying the role of novel biomarkers in heart disease in women .
  • Developing and evaluating techniques to safely do MRI imaging in patients who have cardiac devices.
  • Evaluating the benefits of cardiac support with a percutaneous left ventricular assist device in patients who suffer an acute myocardial infarction.
  • Developing and evaluating novel gene delivery strategies directly to the heart muscle.
  • Evaluating novel devices to assist in cardiac remodeling in patients with heart failure from severe coronary artery disease.
  • Developing and validating novel risk stratification tools in heart failure and pulmonary hypertension patients.
  • Evaluating novel immunosuppressive treatments in patients after heart transplantation.
  • Testing new non-invasive methods to diagnose rejection after cardiac transplantation.
  • Evaluating bio-absorbable stents for patients with coronary artery disease.
  • Evaluating the benefit of vagal nerve stimulation in patients with chronic heart failure.

Cardiovascular Research Milestones at Allegheny Health Network

Our cardiovascular surgeons and cardiologists:

  • Developed and tested the Magovern mechanical heart valve.
  • Developed the Tandem Heart, a percutaneous left ventricular assist device (LVAD) to help patients in cardiogenic shock and heart failure.
  • Conducted early clinical research on “Flow Wire” technology/cardiac physiology—a technique measuring blood flow and plaque blockage.
  • Were instrumental in early development of atherectomy catheter technology—an alternative to balloon angioplasty as an effective means to open up blocked arteries.
  • Were key investigators in clinical trials looking at coronary stent effectiveness.
  • Led the clinical investigators evaluating the effectiveness of the use of endovascular stents for the treatment of abdominal aneurysms.
  • Implanted the first permanent left ventricular assist device in Pennsylvania in a patient with end-stage heart failure.
  • Implanted the first Syncardia Total Artificial Heart in a patient with end-stage heart failure.
  • Performed the first percutaneous aortic valve replacement using the trans apical approach in the region.
  • Performed the region’s first robot-assisted coronary bypass surgery.