Saturday, February 15, 2003

New center to research 'smart heart' technology

The Associated Press

LOUISVILLE - "Smart heart" technology that will allow medical devices to adjust to the body's needs will be developed and tested at a heart research center approved by the University of Louisville board of trustees.

U of L President Jim Ramsey said the heart center, combined with the efforts to increase research at the nearby J. Graham Brown Cancer Center, "will continue to establish Louisville as a center for excellence in health care."

Such technology might include pacemakers that speed up when you walk up stairs, artificial hearts and assist devices that pump more blood when they sense a drop in oxygen levels, and internal pumps that automatically release medication when a patient's blood pressure rises too high.

The concept for the Cardiovascular Innovation Institute was disclosed in the fall. Since then, U of L, Jewish Hospital HealthCare Services and the state Office for the New Economy have agreed to form a partnership to run the center. The three partners, plus the federal government, will contribute and raise $43 million to build and equip a four-story building and operate it for the first five years.

Groundbreaking will be this summer, and the building should be ready in the first half of 2005.

The center, which will marry expertise from U of L's medical and engineering schools, will build on the know-how and reputation that U of L surgeons Laman Gray and Rob Dowling have developed through their research on the AbioCor artificial heart.

"The possibilities are immense," said Gray, who originated the idea for the center more than five years ago and will be its medical director.

"The expectation is that we will . . . develop new technology that we will be able to patent and spin off and have start-up companies," he said.

Jewish Hospital will contribute the largest amount - $20 million over five years - though its parent company's board must approve the deal when it meets Feb. 26.

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