Weekly Features


Krannert Institute marks 50 years of leading cardiovascular research

Nov. 14, 2013

An IU School of Medicine-based institute on the forefront of cardiovascular research celebrated a half decade spent pioneering advancements in the field during a special event at Fairbanks Hall on Nov. 11.

The Krannert Institute of Cardiology 50th Anniversary Gala was an opportunity to look back upon the years of achievement enjoyed by faculty, students and staff at the Krannert Institute -- as well as look toward the future.

"We like to be on the cutting edge -- always," said Peng-Sheng Chen, M.D., director of the Krannert Institute and Medtronic Zipes Professor of Cardiology and professor of medicine at the IU School of Medicine. "Over the years, I'm proud to say that the Krannert Institute has made some of the world's most leading advances in the area of cardiovascular medicine."

Founded in 1963 through an endowment from Herman and Elnora Krannert, the Krannert Institute of Cardiology has played a pivotal role in key technologies used in modern heart care, including the invention of echocardiography and advancements in heart rhythm technology. Krannert was a philanthropist who made his fortune through the production of corrugated cardboard in the early to mid-20th century. He and his wife were also responsible for the first cardiology fellowship at IU. The founding director of the Krannert Institute of Cardiology was Charles Fisch, M.D.

"For many years, the Krannert Endowment has allowed students and the faculty at the IU School of Medicine to sponsor researchers in cardiology and help young investigators develop their research ideas through internal funding programs, with many going on to successfully garner grants from groups such as the National Institutes of Health," Dr. Chen said. Among some of the most prominent individuals whose careers have been supported in part by the institute are Harvey Feigenbaum, M.D., an IU Distinguished Professor and professor of medicine at the IU School of Medicine, and Douglas Zipes, M.D., an IU Distinguished Professor Emeritus and professor of medicine emeritus at the IU School of Medicine.

The father of echocardiography, Dr. Feigenbaum developed this widely used instrument at the IU School of Medicine in the 1960s and '70s. For many years he trained other pioneers in the field, as researchers flocked to the school to learn the technology; most returned to their home institutions across the U.S. and beyond to establish their own echocardiography programs. Dr. Feigenbaum remains an active member of the IUSM faculty.

The institute's other major contribution to the field of cardiology, heart rhythm research, was carried out by Dr. Zipes, who in turn continued the work of Dr. Fisch, an early pioneer of the technology. Dr. Zipes' achievements include pioneering work in the development of the implantable cardio-defibrillator -- a device placed inside the body able to deliver a shock that prevents death during a cardiac arrest -- as well as the most common pattern of "automatically delivered rapid ventricle pacing" used to prevent heart arrhythmia.

The ICD, which can automatically deliver this treatment, was once referred by Vice President Dick Cheney, a beneficiary of the technology, as "pacemaker plus," Dr. Chen added.

Other notable researchers supported in part by the Krannert Institute include Keith March, M.D., Ph.D., Cryptic Masons Medical Research Foundation Professor of Vascular Biology Research and professor of medicine and of cellular and integrative physiology at the IU School of Medicine; and Loren Field, Ph.D., professor of medicine, cellular and integrative physiology, and pediatrics at the IU School of Medicine.

Dr. March is a pioneer on the use of stem cell therapy to treat vascular disease, including a highly successful clinical trial to regrow leg veins affected by diseases such as diabetes, preventing several amputations. Dr. Field is an expert on the development of the heart, including the pathways involved in genetic mutations related to congenital heart diseases. Drs. March and Field are widely regarded as the world's leading authorities in the respective subspecialties, according to Dr. Chen.

Moreover, Dr. Chen notes that many prominent faculty members continue to join IU based on the history and reputation of the Krannert Institute -- investigators such as Ching-Pin Chang, M.D., Ph.D., who recently joined IU from Stanford University, where he was a leader in the field of cardiovascular genetics as it relates to heart failure. A "young and exciting" researcher, Dr. Chen noted that Dr. Chang carries multiple grants from the NIH, American Heart Association and the pharmaceutical industry, and contributes work at the "highest levels of scientific publications."

The institute also maintains a highly active fellowship training program, including "sub-subspecialty training" in cardiac electro-physiology, interventional cardiology and heart failure, highly specialized areas not offered at every medical school. This program, which has "trained many leaders in our field both in private practice and in academia," is directed by William Groh, M.D., associate professor of medicine, who also served as faculty chair of the gala planning committee.

Today, the Krannert Institute includes 29 cardiologists, all of whom are IU School of Medicine faculty; seven Ph.D. students; 29 post-doctoral fellows, including 23 cardiovascular disease fellows; and 35 professional staff members. In addition to a special presentation about the past, the present and the future of the Krannert Institute, Saturday's gala was an opportunity for the institute's faculty and staff members, as well as previous trainees, to meet, reminisce and renew their commitment to the institute. The gala also served as the capstone to a yearlong lecture series hosted by the institute, highlighting major milestones of the organization. Additional activities included a special tribute to Jacqueline O’Donnel, M.D., professor of medicine at the IU School of Medicine and the director of the heart transplant service at the Krannert Institute, who is retiring.

"When I consider the future of the Krannert Institute, I always emphasize our place at the forefront of the genetics and personalized medicine in cardiovascular disease," Dr. Chen said. "They are the future -- and so they too are where our focus lies." 

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