GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (Jan. 12, 2016)—Van Andel Research Institute (VARI) and Spectrum Health’s Stefan Jovinge, M.D., Ph.D., has been appointed to a consulting professorship at Stanford University School of Medicine as part of a collaboration to better understand the heart’s regenerative capacity.
Jovinge’s appointment at Stanford streamlines his ability to collaborate with Sean Wu, M.D., Ph.D., at Stanford Cardiovascular Institute and the Stanford Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine. Jovinge also leads a laboratory at VARI, is director of the DeVos Cardiovascular Research Program (a joint effort between VARI and Spectrum Health), and is medical director of research at Spectrum Health Frederik Meijer Heart & Vascular Institute. He is based in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
In addition to his responsibilities at VARI and Spectrum Health, Jovinge will devote 10 percent of his time to Stanford projects. He and Wu will jointly mentor postdoctoral fellows and technicians at the Stanford Cardiovascular Institute. Jovinge and Wu lead groups that work to better understand the different subtypes of heart muscle cells with the ultimate goal of identifying which cell types have the best regenerative potential. Both investigators already have made key discoveries in the field of heart muscle regeneration.
“By joining forces, we expect to significantly advance cardiovascular research with the ultimate goal of developing new therapies for heart disease,” Jovinge said. “This new work will involve the generation of specialized heart muscle cells as well as finding ways to make the heart mend itself.”
A long-standing challenge in the field of regenerative medicine is developing methods to generate new heart tissue. Jovinge and Wu’s collaboration will tackle this problem by determining which cells are best suited for the development of new heart disease therapies. Jovinge’s team at VARI and Spectrum Health has made significant progress in this area, including reprogramming other cells, such as skin or even blood cells, to eventually become new heart muscle cells called cardiomyocytes.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. and is responsible for one in four deaths annually, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Current treatments for heart disease are limited and involve either life-long drug therapy or invasive surgery, neither of which actually repairs damage. Harnessing the heart’s own regenerative potential holds promise for better treatment of heart disease and changing the standard of care for patients.
ABOUT VAN ANDEL RESEARCH INSTITUTE
Van Andel Institute (VAI) is an independent biomedical research and science education organization committed to improving the health and enhancing the lives of current and future generations. Established by Jay and Betty Van Andel in 1996 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, VAI has grown into a premier research and educational institution that supports the work of more than 270 scientists, educators and staff. Van Andel Research Institute (VARI), VAI’s research division, is dedicated to determining the epigenetic, genetic, molecular and cellular origins of cancer, Parkinson’s and other diseases and translating those findings into effective therapies. The Institute’s scientists work in on-site laboratories and participate in collaborative partnerships that span the globe. 100% To Research, Discovery & Hope®
ABOUT SPECTRUM HEALTH
Spectrum Health is a not-for-profit health system, based in West Michigan, offering a full continuum of care through the Spectrum Health Hospital Group, which is comprised of 12 hospitals, including Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital; 183 ambulatory and service sites; more than 3,400 physicians and advanced practice providers, including nearly 1,400 members of the Spectrum Health Medical Group; and Priority Health, a health plan with about 658,000 members. Spectrum Health is West Michigan’s largest employer, with 23,800 employees. The organization provided $283 million in community benefit during its 2015 fiscal year. Spectrum Health is the only health system in Michigan to be named one of the nation’s 15 Top Health Systems® by Truven Health Analytics for 2015. This is the fourth time the organization has received this recognition. spectrumhealth.org
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