McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine
affiliated faculty member Ergin Kocyildirim, MD (pictured), assistant professor, Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery, University of Pittsburgh, and chair of the Team Pittsburgh-Fontan Study Group, and his team of researchers recently received a $100,000 grant through Texas A&M Institute for Preclinical Studies (TIPS) for an exciting and novel project which will lead to a significantly enhanced understanding of Fontan circulation and venous assist options. The project will not only allow validation of the multi-disciplinary team’s previous research on failing Fontan circulation, venous assist options, and enhanced external counterpulsation (EECP), but will also provide the relevant EECP data in Fontan circulation. The project data is projected to pave the way to a clinical study.
Single ventricle anomalies are the fifth most common heart defect and the leading cause of death from all structural birth defects in the United States. In a normal biventricular heart, the systemic and pulmonary circulations are in series and each circulation is supported by a ventricle. In patients born with a single ventricular chamber, the two circulations are in parallel and patients only survive because the systemic and pulmonary venous bloods mix.
In 1971, Francis Fontan and Eugene Baudet first described a procedure that diverted all systemic venous blood into the pulmonary arteries, without the interposition of a ventricle, as a surgical palliation for tricuspid atresia. The introduction of this eponymous ‘Fontan operation’ 40 years ago revolutionized the treatment of complex congenital heart defects and remains the treatment of choice for patients born with one functional ventricle.
A large number of children continue to benefit from the Fontan operation. However, despite many refinements of the surgical procedure in the past 20 years, a relatively high proportion of patients demonstrate a gradual decline in functional capacity and premature death.
In addition to Dr. Kocyildirim, local Pittsburgh team members on the project include:
- Ozlem Soran, MD, MPH, director of EECP Research Lab, research associate professor of medicine, associate professor of epidemiology/research, Division of Cardiology, University of Pittsburgh
- Victor Morell, MD, associate professor of surgery, Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery, chief, Pediatric Cardiothoracic Surgery, co-director, Heart Center, Division of Cardiac Surgery of the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine
- Peter Wearden, MD, PhD, McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine faculty member, assistant professor of cardiothoracic surgery, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, cardiothoracic surgeon, Division of Pediatric Cardiothoracic Surgery, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC
- Kerem Pekkan, PhD, assistant professor with Carnegie Mellon University's Biomedical and Mechanical Engineering Departments
TIPS faculty members Terry Fossum, PhD, professor, Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University, and Egemen Tuzun, MD, scientific director, TIPS, recently joined the team and will also work as collaborators on the project.
Illustration: McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine.
Bio: Dr. Ergin Kocyildirim
Bio: Dr. Peter Wearden