Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence donates $2 million to advance adult stem cell research in treatment of heart disease


    LOUISVILLE, Ky. – For more than a decade, Roberto Bolli, M.D., has been working to revolutionize the treatment of heart failure by providing patients treatment derived from their own cardiac stem cells. Today, the University of Louisville announced that the Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence is providing just over $2 million to help Bolli move his research another step closer to being able to help potentially millions of people throughout the world.

    The university also announced it was providing nearly $1 million from proceeds from a previous gift from former UofL board chair the late Owsley Frazier, bringing the total to $3 million in support of Bolli’s groundbreaking work.

    The funds will be used to purchase and install a Current Good Manufacturing Practices facility required by the Food and Drug Administration for processing the stem cells for use in the study participants.

    “Through nearly five years of research studies Dr. Bolli has provided patients who have had heart attacks infusions of their own cardiac stem cells and finding that their hearts are actually regenerating heart muscle severely damaged by heart attack,” said James Ramsey, Ph.D., president of the University of Louisville. “This gift from the Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence will enable Dr. Bolli and his team to significantly expand his clinical trials with the goal of transforming the lives of hundreds of people, and eventually millions.”

    Bolli and his team, which includes Dr. Piero Anversa at Brigham and Women’s Hospital/Harvard Medical School in Boston, harvest cardiac stem cells, referred to as “c-kit positive” cells because they express the c-kit protein on their surface, from the patients during coronary artery bypass surgery conducted at Jewish Hospital in Louisville. The stem cells currently are purified in Anversa’s lab in Boston and allowed to grow. Once an adequate number of stem cells are produced – about one million ” Bolli’s team in Louisville reintroduces them into the region of the patient’s heart that has been destroyed by cardiac infarction, otherwise known as heart attack. The new facility will allow the purification and growing processes to be performed in Louisville.

    “As part of our mission, the Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence provides support for innovative medical research that will significantly impact the lives of people in our community and beyond,” said Louis Waterman, chair of the board. “Dr. Bolli’s work has the potential to change how heart failure is treated. It is our privilege to facilitate his, and his team’s, efforts through this gift.”

    “Dr. Bolli is recognized internationally as an innovative leader in the treatment of heart disease and heart failure,” said David L. Dunn, M.D., Ph.D., UofL executive vice president for health affairs. “His work has the potential to forever alter how we view heart failure and how we provide care for the patients who suffer from it.”

    Bolli, professor of medicine and the director of the Institute of Molecular Cardiology at UofL, recently was honored with the American Heart Association’s Research Achievement Award for his work with cardiovascular research. He also is editor-in-chief of the journal Circulation Research.

    “These resources will enable our team to significantly enhance our efforts to bring a new way of treating heart failure to patients who so desperately need help,” said Bolli, who also holds the Jewish Hospital Heart & Lung Institute Distinguished Chair in Cardiology. “In our initial trials we have demonstrated that we are able to reverse the damage caused by a heart attack. I am very excited that we now will be able to explore this further in a much larger population.”