Gerald McGinnis Cardiovascular Institute Opens New Research Facility at AGH

March 04, 2009

Building on a legacy of groundbreaking discoveries at Allegheny General Hospital (AGH) exploring the mechanisms and treatment of cardiovascular disease, the Gerald McGinnis Cardiovascular Institute’s new Center for Research and Innovation officially opened on March 5, 2009 to support its growing research programs.   Funding for the new Center was made possible through grants from external funding sources.

The Center’s genomics and gene therapy research branch encompass the east wing of the eighth floor of AGH’s South Tower, linking research in genomic analysis of DNA samples from cardiovascular patients with emerging gene therapy technologies to enable the use of DNA itself as medicine for cardiovascular diseases.

“The integration of genomics and gene therapy within a single facility offers CVI scientists the opportunity to not only explore the genetic basis of cardiovascular diseases, but to also have available the gene delivery technologies needed to envision gene therapies for these diseases,” said Raymond Benza, MD, Director of the new Center and medical director of AGH’s Heart Failure, Transplantation and Mechanical Assist Devices program.

The Center includes a dedicated viral vector production facility where CVI scientists can construct gene therapy vectors starting with the desired DNA payload and proceeding to final purification and testing. The Center also houses the world’s largest collection of genomic DNA samples from patients with pulmonary arterial hypertension — the product of an international effort led by Dr. Benza to understand the genomic basis of this deadly disease.

Shared resources include a dedicated cell culture facility; a fully equipped surgical operating room; cardiac catheterization, imaging and electrophysiological laboratories; and a microscopy facility. The imaging suite is equipped with a state-of-the-art ultrasound imaging platform and a micro CT device capable of imaging microvascular tissue networks in the micron range.

In addition to accommodating the laboratories, the Center has offices for a team of clinical research nurses conducting more than 70 active clinical trials in cardiovascular disease at AGH. Documentation for clinical trials will be stored in a records room, and a conference room is available for meetings and seminars for educational purposes.

According to Dr. Benza, the Center for Research and Innovation will encompass five areas of cardiovascular research: basic, clinical, cardiac imaging, surgical and translational studies.

“Together, our team of investigators will be developing a broad-based research environment that will focus on a new generation of diagnostic and treatment methodologies,” said Dr. Benza. “Through these efforts, our Center will expand patients’ opportunities for improved cardiac health and a better quality of life.”

Added Srinivas Murali, MD, Medical Director of the Gerald McGinnis Cardiovascular Institute: “The opening of the Center for Research and Innovation is yet another milestone for the Gerald McGinnis Cardiovascular Institute and I am very proud of this achievement. The infrastructure in this Center is tailor made for innovative and collaborative projects since it will facilitate communication between scientists and their clinical partners.”



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