There have been tremendous advances in cardiac surgery over the years. Physicians can now operate on children with heart defects in the first month or week of their lives. But very little is known about how the human heart develops especially in that first year after birth.
Emory and Childrenâ€™s Healthcare of Atlanta researcher Mary Wagner, PhD, is leading a project looking at how the heart develops during the first year of life. This is critical, she says, because childrenâ€™s hearts respond differently to medications and surgery than adultsâ€™ hearts, and many treatments currently available to pediatric heart patients were designed and tailored specifically for the adult heart.
Wagner, associate professor in Emory’s School of Medicine, and her research team will examine the physiological properties of human heart tissue from pediatric patients. The samples are tissue that needs to be removed as part of the surgical repair of the patientâ€™s heart and would otherwise be discarded.
The ultimate goal of Wagnerâ€™s research is to examine the differences in the human heart in the first year after birth and identify novel target therapies for the pediatric cardiac patient.
Wagnerâ€™s research labs are housed at The Emory-Childrenâ€™s Center, a joint venture between Emory Healthcare and Childrenâ€™s Healthcare of Atlanta.
Her research is funded by a stimulus grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health.