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MMC Awarded $1.9M National Institutes of Health Grant To Study Cardiac Cell Therapy

September 25, 2019

PORTLAND, Maine – Maine Medical Center (MMC) has been awarded a $1.9 million grant from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) to study how certain adult stem cells might be used to reverse heart failure when injected into the heart. The pre-clinical study may someday lead to new strategies to treat heart failure.

MMC’s Chief Academic Officer, Doug Sawyer, M.D., Ph.D., and Faculty Scientists Calvin Vary, Ph.D., Ilka Pinz, Ph.D. and Sergey Ryzhov, M.D., Ph.D. are looking into whether certain kinds of heart cells might be more effective than others in regenerating heart tissue when injected into a failing heart. The award also will allow them to study whether these cells can be manipulated into healing a heart more effectively and whether stem cells from other parts of the body may be just as effective at healing as those coming from the heart. The stem cells have all been collected from MMC patients who have consented to a small biopsy of heart tissue at the time of cardiac surgery.

“Cell therapy is a promising area of science that may one day reduce the number of patients who need current advanced therapies such as heart transplant and mechanical pumps,” Sawyer said. “Studies like this help us understand what may make some stem cells better at repairing an injured heart than others.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease was the number two cause of death in Maine in 2017.

The research described is supported by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health under Award R01HL139887. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.


About Maine Medical Center

Maine Medical Center (MMC), recognized as a Best Regional Hospital by U.S. News and World Report for 2019-2020, is a complete health care resource for the people of Greater Portland and the entire state, as well as northern New England. Incorporated in 1868, MMC is the state’s largest medical center, licensed for 637 beds and employing more than 9,600 people. MMC's unique role as both a community hospital and a referral center requires an unparalleled depth and breadth of services, including an active educational program and a world-class biomedical research center. As a nonprofit institution, Maine Medical Center provides nearly 23 percent of all the charity care delivered in Maine. MMC is part of the MaineHealth system, a growing family of health care services in northern New England. For more information, visit

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