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New program to develop collaborations between cardiac researchers and clinicians at Lankenau Medical Center and Israeli Medical Centers

Lankenau Medical Center September 26, 2017 Research News

Officials at the Lankenau Institute for Medical Research (LIMR), part of Main Line Health, have announced a new program, the Lankenau-Israel Strategic Alliance (LISA), whose mission is to develop collaborations between physicians and scientists at Lankenau Medical Center and medical centers in Israel. Under the umbrella of the Israel Heart Society, the program will foster mutually beneficial cardiology research.

The first LISA Fellow selected to participate, Itai Weissberg, MD, PhD, joined the Cardiovascular Research Program at LIMR on August 1, 2017.

“We are delighted to launch this important strategic alliance with our colleagues in Israel and to welcome Dr. Weissberg to LIMR,” said George Prendergast, PhD, president and CEO of LIMR. “We look forward to a fruitful collaboration and exchange focused on advancing our ability to diagnose and treat cardiovascular diseases.”

The strategic alliance will facilitate an exchange of information, with an initial emphasis on heart rhythm disorders and the development of novel approaches to therapy. Future programs may include education-related exchanges among cardiac surgeons, including co-sponsorship of educational sessions at international cardiology meetings.

“Lankenau Medical Center is known for being a leader in the region for cardiac care delivery and research,” said Phil Robinson, president, Lankenau Medical Center. “Our ultimate goal is to cross-fertilize cardiac research between Lankenau Medical Center and the medical centers throughout Israel, helping to enrich and accelerate medical practice at both locations. Together, we can advance the field of cardiac medicine and further enhance the quality of care delivered to our patients and community members.”

Charles Antzelevitch, PhD, executive director of cardiovascular research at LIMR and director of research, Lankenau Heart Institute, who helped to initiate the LISA program, noted that he anticipates the program will “make impactful advances in the study and treatment of atrial and ventricular arrhythmias, particularly atrial fibrillation; inherited sudden cardiac death syndromes; and tissue and organ bioengineering.”

Dr. Weissberg, who earned his MD and PhD from Ben-Gurion University (BGU) in Israel, most recently was an internal medicine resident at Israel-based Soroko Medical Center, a major teaching hospital affiliated with BGU in the Negev. He will participate in several new and ongoing projects in the Cardiovascular Research Program at LIMR, including studies examining genetic defects in ion channels common to both the brain and heart responsible for sudden unexpected death in epilepsy.

LIMR’s cardiac research team is studying the genetic basis for several heart arrhythmia syndromes and is developing customized treatments for families that harbor pathogenic genetic defects. Another important avenue of LIMR’s research is aimed at growing new hearts by taking cadaver hearts and stripping away all cells so a collagen matrix remains. The matrix is then reseeded with stem cells or progenitor cells generated from the patient’s own skin cells or blood cells. LIMR scientists hope these newly created hearts will not be rejected, thus helping patients avoid a lifetime of anti-rejection medications. Dr. Weissberg will have the opportunity to participate in these exciting research projects.

In addition to Dr. Antzelevitch, the LISA initiative was developed by Peter Kowey, MD, a Lankenau-based cardiologist and immediate past system chief of cardiovascular diseases for Main Line Health; Mark Cohen, a member of Lankenau’s President’s Advisory Council; and Dr. Michael Glikson, president of the Israel Heart Society. The program is being enthusiastically funded by Mr. Cohen and other local donors, along with Lankenau Medical Center and the Israel Heart Society.

As part of their work, the LIMR and Israeli researchers will aid in the advancement of the mission of the Lankenau Heart Institute, Main Line Health’s premier, comprehensive cardiovascular medicine and surgery program. The Lankenau Heart Institute brings together the clinical expertise of all four Main Line Health acute care hospitals and community cardiology practices to ensure that patients receive a level of quality, service and experience that is unprecedented in the region. Through the systemwide coordination of services, the Lankenau Heart Institute delivers preventive, diagnostic, therapeutic and rehabilitative cardiovascular services at each of our locations.

About Main Line Health

Founded in 1985,Main Line Health is a not-for-profit health system serving portions of Philadelphia and its western suburbs. Main Line Health’s commitment—to deliver advanced medicine to treat and cure disease while also playing an important role in prevention and disease management as well as training physicians and other health care providers—reflects our intent to keep our community and ourselves well ahead. A team of more than 10,000 employees and 2,000 physicians care for patients throughout the Main Line Health system.

At Main Line Health’s core are four of the region’s most respected acute care hospitals—Lankenau Medical Center, Bryn Mawr Hospital, Paoli Hospital and Riddle Hospital—as well as one of the nation’s recognized facilities for rehabilitative medicine, Bryn Mawr Rehabilitation Hospital.

Main Line Health also includes Mirmont Treatment Center for drug and alcohol recovery; Main Line Health HomeCare & Hospice, which includes skilled home health care, hospice and home infusion services; Main Line Health Centers, primary and specialty care, lab and radiology, and other outpatient services located in Broomall, Collegeville, Concordville, Exton, King of Prussia and Newtown Square; Lankenau Institute for Medical Research, a biomedical research organization; and Main Line HealthCare,one of the region’s largest multispecialty physician networks.

Main Line Health is the recipient of numerous awards for quality care and service, including System Magnet® designation, the nation’s highest distinction for nursing excellence and the Mid-Atlantic Alliance for Performance Excellence (MAAPE) Excellence Award. Main Line Health is committed to creating an environment of diversity, respect and inclusion and has proudly embraced the American Hospital Association’s #123forEquity Pledge to Act to eliminate disparities in care. We are dedicated to advancing patient-centered care, education and research to help our community stay healthy.

About Lankenau Institute for Medical Research

Lankenau Institute for Medical Research (LIMR) is a nonprofit biomedical research institute located on the campus of Lankenau Medical Center and is part of Main Line Health. Founded in 1927, LIMR’s mission is to improve human health and well-being. Faculty and staff are devoted to advancing innovative new approaches to formidable medical challenges, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, gastrointestinal disorders and autoimmune diseases, such as diabetes and arthritis. LIMR’s principal investigators conduct basic, preclinical and translational research, using their findings to explore ways to improve disease detection, diagnosis, treatment and prevention. They are committed to extending the boundaries of human health through technology transfer and training of the next generation of scientists and physicians.