Erin’s Fund started from the heart of a little girl — a little girl who was only 4 days old when she had her first heart surgery. Now, the organization is instrumental in providing funding for research and new therapies which hold promise for treating heart conditions in children. Learn more about how one child’s heart has helped to save the lives of others!
Support from Erin’s Fund has spurred advances and innovation in the Cardiology Research Lab at CHOP. Dr. Robert Levy and his team have been researching novel drug development and biomedical nanotechnology that allow for more effective, targeted treatments — and they are very enthusiastic about their progress thus far. Generosity from the Seidel family and friends has helped lay the groundwork for these new therapies which hold promise for treating heart conditions in children.
Drugs are often used to treat cardiovascular disease; however, they are only effective if they reach their intended targets. Many drugs or agents have a unique chemical property that make it challenging to get them to the areas in the body where they can do the most good. CHOP researchers Drs. Robert Levy, Michael Chorny, and Ivan Alferiev have developed a new and unique way of delivering drugs throughout the body by combining two drugs or attaching medications to other chemicals. These combinations change the way the drugs are processed in the body, making the treatment even more effective. Researchers are also looking at existing drugs that may be able to slow the progression of heart valve diseases.
Nanotechnology offers another promising way of delivering medication throughout the body. Nanoparticles are tiny spheres, invisible to the naked eye, which can carry helpful therapies such as drugs and proteins to specific areas of the heart and blood vessels that are affected by diseases. Once they arrive at their destination, the particles slowly release medicine and can prevent blockages. Drs. Levy and Chorny are studying how to guide these particles through the body using magnets. Early results of their work have been outstanding, prompting new research funding from the National Institutes of Health for both of them.
This localized treatment could help not only heart patients, but also has implications far beyond the pediatric population. For example, magnetically targeted drug intervention could fill an important, unmet need in treating peripheral artery disease, in which blocked arteries, primarily in the legs, exact a heavy toll in some 30 million older adults in North America and Europe. Diabetes patients and smokers are particularly affected by this painful, debilitating condition, which is responsible for the majority of amputations performed in this country.
These breakthrough medical interventions are inspiring examples of how private philanthropy drives innovation, produces results and leverages critical funding for new directions in cardiac research.