Center for Cardiovascular Biology (CCB)
In this Section
The Cardiac Development Program is co-directed by Drs. Mary Wagner and Paul Kirshbom.
The focus of this laboratory is on postnatal development of cardiac function because most treatments used in pediatric cardiology were developed for the adult with heart disease and thus, may have different effects on cardiac function in the immature heart. Drs. Wagner and Kirshbom have a grant from the NIH to study developmental changes in the contractility of the developing human ventricle, using small pieces of infant hearts which are removed as part of the surgical therapy for CHD. Very little is known about contractility in the very young human heart and understanding the fundamental properties of young cardiac patients may suggest alternate therapies tailored to the pediatric cardiac patient. They has also initiated a collaborative study with adult and pediatric cardiologists and surgeons to examine tissue biopsies at the time of pulmonary valve replacement (PVR) surgery and correlate the molecular and cellular properties of the tissue to pre- and post-operative imaging, cardiopulmonary testing and blood biomarker levels in order to optimize the timing of PVR surgery. Additionally, they are pursuing studies on the deleterious effects of oxidative stress on infant hearts and possible therapies to ameliorate this injury. Lastly, in collaboration with adult cardiology, they are investigating the use of novel molecular therapies to enhance cardiac regeneration as a treatment for CHD.
The Cardiac Neuroprotection Program is directed by Bill Mahle, M.D., Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Shannon Hamrick, M.D., Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Division of Neonatology. Children with CHD are particularly susceptible to brain injury both from the abnormal oxygenation and flow to the brain due to their heart defect and possibly to further injury from required surgery. In this program they use advanced MRI imaging of the newborn brain with serum measurements of substances known to be increased during inflammatory stress to determine the extent of injury and to test ways to minimize brain injury. They also have experimental studies with infant piglets in which they study ways to minimize brain injury when the heart beat is arrested and whether drugs such as progesterone can decrease or reverse this injury.
We have a collaborative program between Ajit Yoganathan, Ph.D., Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Kirk Kanter, M.D., Professor of Surgery at Emory and CHOA on the use of computational modeling to help design surgical treatments for infants with CHD. They have developed a state-of-the-art virtual surgery environment to allow the complex CHD anatomy to be visualized and also to explore a number of surgical options with an interactive predictive interface with MRI imaging coupled to computerized modeling of flow and pressure. The overall goal is to design a tool for customizing a surgical approach to an individual patient with CHD.
Bahaaldin Alsoufi, M.D completed his general surgery residency at the University of Massachusetts, his cardiothoracic surgery residency at Oregon Health Science University, his fellowship in adult cardiac surgery at Toronto General Hospital, and his fellowship in congenital cardiac surgery at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. In 2006, he joined King Faisal Heart Institute, King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, as a consultant in pediatric cardiac surgery. He also served as the chairman of mortality and morbidity and quality director. Dr. Alsoufi is a well-published author and serves on the editorial boards of BioMed Central Surgery and Journal of the Saudi Heart Association. His clinical specialties are cardiac surgery in neonates and children and congenital cardiac surgery in adults, while his research interests include clinical outcomes research, valvular heart disease, and ECMO.
Nina Guzzetta, M.D. graduated from Emory University School of Medicine where she also undertook her internship in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics. Next, she moved to Boston where she completed residency training in Anesthesiology at Harvard University/Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Afterwards, Dr. Guzzetta returned to Emory for her fellowship in adult and pediatric cardiac anesthesia. In 1994, she joined the anesthesia faculty at Emory and has practiced full-time in the pediatric cardiac anesthesia division at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta since 1998.
Dr. Guzzetta provides anesthesia care for patients with congenital heart disease as well as training residents and fellows in how to provide anesthesia for these patients. She also conducts extensive clinical research in this area primarily focusing on 1) effective anticoagulation for pediatric cardiac surgical patients undergoing cardiopulmonary bypass and 2) the management of bleeding after cardiopulmonary bypass. Dr. Guzzetta is on the Board of Directors of the Congenital Cardiac Anesthesia Society and currently serves as Secretary/Treasurer.
Kevin Maher, M.D. graduated from the University of Maryland School of Medicine in 1991. He completed a residency and chief residency in Pediatrics at Maryland and then went on the University of Michigan for a Fellowship in Pediatric Cardiology. In 2004, Dr Maher joined the Sibley Heart Center Pediatric Cardiology group at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Emory University School of Medicine. His primary clinical responsibilities are in the pediatric cardiac intensive care unit at Children’s. A significant amount of time is devoted to teaching and research. Dr Maher’s research activities include neonatal CPR, cardiac biomarkers in children, and device development. Dr Maher works to further collaborations with Georgia Tech, aiming to bring engineers into the field of pediatric cardiac research and device development. To this end he is the associate director of the Pediatric Nanomedicine Center, the CHOA director of the Center for Pediatric Innovation and the associate director of the Atlantic Pediatric Device Consortium. He is a member of the Faculty Council at Children’s, advancing Georgia Tech-CHOA-Emory research collaborations. He is an adjunct associate professor of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech. Dr Maher has been an active member the American Heart Association, serving as the Atlanta Metro AHA Board president, and is currently on the national AHA Board. Dr Maher resides with his wife and three children in Atlanta.
Bill Mahle, M.D. is a Professor of Pediatrics and directs the Clinical Research Program for cardiovascular research at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Dr. Mahle’s research interests include systems improvement using novel industrial engineering approaches. He has extensive experience with clinical trials. He is the study chair for the NHLBI PumpKIN trial evaluating pediatric specific mechanical support devices. Dr. Mahle is also site PI for a number of clinical trials in heart transplantation funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). He also directs the neurodevelopmental outcome clinical and research program that is focused on improving developmental outcomes and functional abilities of children and adolescents with congenital heart disease. This program employed state-of-the-art brain imaging, including functional MRI to understand the impairments in memory and attention that are common following congenital heart surgery.
Ritu Sachdeva, MD is an Associate Professor at the Emory University School of Medicine, Department of Pediatrics. She went to Lady Hardinge Medical College, New Delhi, India for her medical school. She did her Pediatric residency at the University of Illinois, Chicago followed by Pediatric Cardiology fellowship at Mayo Clinic, Rochester. Prior to joining Emory in July 2012, she served as the Director of Echocardiography and Director of Continuing Medical Education at the Arkansas Children’s Hospital and University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. She was also the recipient of the Betty Lowe endowed Chair in Pediatric Education. Her clinical focus has been pediatric echocardiography and she has always been actively involved with education and research endeavors. Currently she is serving as the Medical Director of Cardiovascular Imaging Research Core (CIRC) at the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. In this role she has been expanding the on-going research endeavors and developing new collaborations within the institution as well as with other institutions. Her research activities relate to the use of echocardiography in defining morphometric predictors of outcomes in various cardiac lesions and application of novel technologies in evaluating cardiac function. These novel technologies include Doppler tissue imaging, strain and strain rate imaging and three-dimensional echocardiography. She has also established a program for non-invasive assessment of vascular function in pediatric patients. This includes assessment of carotid intima-medial thickness, endothelial function assessment using brachial flow-mediated dilation, and measurement of arterial stiffness using applanation tonometry. The CIRC lab is now one of the handful programs in the country to possess these unique capabilities and is actively engaged in projects using these novel techniques in kids to assess their vascular function. With the help of her team at CIRC, Dr. Sachdeva aims at providing high quality, non-invasive cardiac imaging support for investigators involved in research involving pediatric patients.