Take Heart: UH Offers Many Experts for February

Tip Sheet for Heart-Related Stories

Lisa Merkl, lkmerkl@uh.edu, 713-743-8192

January 25, 2010-Houston-Matters of the heart dominate in February with Valentine's Day and the American Heart Association's ‘Heart Month' topping the list.  As you consider story ideas ranging from heart disease to relationships, keep in mind these resources from the University of Houston.  For more information, or if you are unable to reach a professor, give us a call at 713-743-8192. 

USING YOUR OWN SKIN TO GROW A NEW HEART
Heart attacks can cause irreversible harm because of the dead and damaged heart tissue left behind.  Using a patient's own skin cells to repair damaged cardiac tissue is the goal of Robert Schwartz, the Cullen Distinguished Professor of Biology and Biochemistry at UH and a researcher at the Texas Heart Institute.  He has pioneered a breakthrough technique for turning ordinary human skin cells into early-stage heart cells.  The cells may then be implanted into heart patients where they grow into fully developed beating heart cells and replace damaged tissue.  Early clinical trials using these re-programmed cells on actual heart patients could begin within one to two years.  Contact Schwartz at 713-743-6595 or rjschwartz@uh.edu

HEALTHY EATING, PHYSICAL ACTIVITY WITH A LATIN BEAT

A healthier lifestyle may be a salsa step away.  Researchers at the UH Department of Health and Human Performance have launched the SALSA study - SAving Lives, Staying Active.  The award-winning study was developed for women of color to increase their physical activity and consumption of fruits and vegetables, using salsa dancing as fun motivation.  Contact Rebecca Lee at 713-743-9335 or relee@uh.edu

DETECTING A HEART ATTACK TIME BOMB

Ioannis Kakadiaris, computer science professor and director of the Computational Biomedicine Lab at UH, and his team are collaborating with Dr. Morteza Naghavi and other cardiologists and engineers from the Association for Eradication of Heart Attack to break new ground in cardiovascular informatics.  Their goal is to uncover a potential ticking "time-bomb" in the heart.  The collaboration focuses on analyzing large volumes of imaging data that will help physicians detect patients who are at risk of heart attack in a 12-month period and develop a "cardiovascular risk score."  The work has enabled physicians to detect "in-vivo" microvessels linked to plaque inflammation, which represent regions of blood vessels prone to future rupture and sudden blockage.  Such early detection is essential in cardiology to reduce the number of annual fatalities because of unpredicted heart attacks and strokes.  Contact Kakadiaris at 713-743-1255 or ioannisk@uh.edu

ALTERNATIVE ARTIFICIAL HEART TECHNOLOGY HOLDS PROMISE
There soon may be more options for those needing a heart transplant thanks to a new device being developed by the Texas Heart Institute in collaboration with two UH professors.  The device emulates how the natural heart responds to physiological conditions within the body.  Existing devices mimic the pulsating pump action of the natural heart.  This proposed total artificial heart replaces the pulsatile feature with two pulseless continuous flow pumps, each about the size of a C battery.  Matthew Franchek and Ralph Metcalfe, both mechanical engineering professors in the Cullen College of Engineering at UH, are part of the biomedical research team working to create this pulseless total artificial heart.  Contact Metcalfe at 713-743-4503 or metcalfe@uh.edu and Franchek at 713-743-4502 or mfranchek@uh.edu

‘MARRIAGE LAB' DOUBLES AS RESEARCH AND CLINICAL SERVICE

Julia Babcock, associate professor of psychology, conducts research on couples' communication and psychophysiology.  As director of the Emotions in Marriage Laboratory, her group seeks couples who want an objective opinion about their relationships.  They collect and analyze data ranging from interviews and questionnaires to actually observing live arguments and physiological reactivity during those arguments.  The information is then compiled into a comprehensive report and presented to couples in a feedback session, where the psychologists point out strengths and weaknesses in communication patterns and offer self-help tips or referrals to couples therapy, if necessary.  Contact Babcock at 713-743-8621 or jbabcock@uh.edu

MEN AND CLOTHES ON DATES
Jill Sundie, assistant professor of marketing at UH, can talk about how people spend on dates, focusing on such things as conspicuous consumption.  In a recent study, she found that high-promiscuity men were more willing to borrow fashionable clothes from friends to impress potential mates.  Contact Sundie at 713-743-4166 or jsundie@uh.edu

USING SUPERCONDUCTIVY TO STUDY INFANT HEARTS

Scientists at the Texas Center for Superconductivity at UH and University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston are researching heart rate variability in the central nervous system during fetal growth and in newborns.  They say it's now possible to non-invasively record fetal cardiac signals using superconducting sensor technology.  This may aid obstetrical and neonatal health care providers in the recognition of fetuses predestined for untoward events in the future.  Contact Audrius Brazdeikis, UH research associate professor of physics, at 713-743-8219 or audrius@uh.edu

DOCUMENTING EARLY CARDIOVASCULAR DEVELOPMENT

Kirill Larin, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering at UH, is collaborating with scientists at Baylor College of Medicine to document the formation of the mammalian heart through a high-resolution, non-invasive imaging device, which rivals the current methods of ultrasound, in vitro studies of fixed tissue samples, and amphibian and fish embryo analysis.  Able to image life as it happens by capturing video of the embryonic heart before it begins beating, the team's technique studies what leads to cardiovascular abnormalities, with the potential to shed light on how to prevent and treat heart-related problems before birth.  Contact Larin at 713-743-4623 or klarin@uh.edu

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