Institute Research

The GW Heart & Vascular Institute also stimulates the development of cardiovascular research projects through a grant-making program open to The George Washington University faculty and trainees

Maria Isabel Tejero, MD, PhD

Guillermo Gutierrez, MD, PhD

From left to right: Baran Kilical, MD; Cynthia Tracy, MD; Neil Sanghvi, MD

The Institute announced its first award winners in February 2007, which include support for innovative cardiovascular research that collaborates with basic scientists, clinicians and health policy experts. Some of our ongoing studies include:

Maria Isabel Tejero, MD, PhD, Assistant Research Professor, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the body and is essential to good health. Low levels of magnesium have been associated with high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes. The adverse affects of magnesium deficiency have been documented in male animals and men, but have not been studied in females. Dr. Terjero’s study induces a magnesium deficiency in rats and studies how the deficiency affects the heart function of male and female rats. The significance is learning more about the role of magnesium in maintaining heart health and whether there are differences in how it affects men versus women.

Guillermo Gutierrez, MD, PhD, Professor of Medicine, Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine

When patients are critically ill their heart function is essential for supporting the other organs of the body, such as the brain and kidneys. Dr. Gutierrez’s study measures the levels of heart stress, as indicated by oxygen and metabolic measures in the heart, in patients who have undergone recent surgery or have an infection. By understanding the level of heart stress, adjustments can be made to treatment regiments to improve survival and enhance recovery of critically-ill patients.

Cynthia Tracy, MD, Director, Electrophysiology Laboratories; Baran Kilical, MD, Cardiovascular Fellow; Neil Sanghvi, MD, Cardiovascular Fellow

Atrial fibrillation (A Fib) is the most prevalent chronic heart rhythm disorder. An estimated 2.2 million people in the U.S. live with A Fib, putting them a risk for blood clots and stroke. A procedure called a cardiac ablation is an accepted treatment and cure for select patients. Ablation procedures are used to terminate irregular heart beats by introducing catheters into the heart and directing energy at specific areas of heart tissue found to be the source of the irregular rhythms. For some patients, however, ablation fails to prevent the re-occurrence of A Fib and some patients develop scar tissues in the veins from the lung, which joins the heart at the point of the ablation. In this study, new imaging technology will be used to: (1) identify heart anatomy that predicts the success or failure of ablation; (2) better determine which patients are at risk for vein scarring. In the end the study hopes to predict which patients will responds positively to ablation treatment.

Lana Bur, MD, a Renal Fellow in the Division of Renal and Hypertension

Dr. Bur’s research looks at “preeclampsia,” which is a complication of pregnancy that can lead to death for the mother and unborn child caused by damage to the blood vessels. There are factors that have been found to predict preeclampsia in women who have heart risk factors, such as high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity. This study is significant in that it measures a blood protein – known to cause preeclampsia in laboratory animals, and can help health professionals determine which women will develop this deadly complication. Predicting which women will develop preeclampsia means preventative measures can be taken – saving the lives of mothers and their babies.

Ryan Gregory, MD, Resident Physician, Department of Internal Medicine, Collaborating with the Department of Health Policy

Dr. Gregory will be working with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation-funded Expecting Success national program, which is housed in GW’s Department of Health Policy. Dr. Gregory’s study will assess GW resident and fellow attitudes, practices and patient outcomes in the GW Critical Care Unit regarding disparities in care for minority and underserved patients. Based on these assessments, his intent is to develop a dynamic and interactive teaching model that will be created to effect change in practices and outcomes.