New York Medical College

2004 press releases

MEDICAL COLLEGE SCIENTIST WINS RESEARCH ACHIEVEMENT AWARD

Valhalla, N.Y., November 1, 2004 - Piero Anversa, M.D., professor of medicine and director of the Cardiovascular Research Institute, will receive the American Heart Association (AHA) Research Achievement Award at the AHA’s Scientific Sessions 2004 for his groundbreaking findings that the heart can repair itself.

Anversa’s historic discoveries "have given the world a dramatically clearer explanation of the underlying disease process at work in heart failure," the association said in its award citation. Showing that cardiac muscle cells undergo a cycle of programmed death and renewal "profoundly reshaped existing knowledge of cardiac muscle cell biology and heralded new approaches to more effective treatments for cardiovascular diseases."

Anversa will accept the prestigious national award at the AHA’s annual research conference held November 7-10 in New Orleans, expected to be attended by about 30,000 physicians, scientists and other medical professionals. Since 1953, the association has presented its annual Research Achievement Award to recognize significant scientific accomplishment during a distinguished career devoted to cardiovascular research.

Alice K. Jacobs, M.D., American Heart Association President, praised Anversa for "pristine and novel experiments" that show the world — first in animal studies, then in human hearts — how cardiac muscle cells, called myocytes, proliferate. His discovery that this cell division continues in the failing heart and in the damaged heart muscle after a heart attack "has revolutionized thinking about cardiac disease and prompted adventurous approaches to treatment," Jacobs said.

Anversa presented the first startling evidence of cardiac regenerative capability in 1987, when he demonstrated that the number of heart muscle cells is not pre-defined at birth, as had been thought. More recently, he and his colleagues showed for the first time in an animal model that direct injection of adult stem cells from bone marrow results in regeneration of cardiac tissue after a heart attack.

These latest results "have unleashed a tidal wave of explorations into the use of adult stem cells to regenerate dead heart muscle tissue, including the initiation of clinical trials testing this potentially beneficial treatment strategy in patients," Jacobs said.

A native of Parma, Italy, Anversa began his distinguished career at the College as a visiting professor in 1972. He joined the faculty full time in 1985 and has been director of the Cardiovascular Research Institute since 1991 and vice-chairman of the department of Medicine since 1999. He lives in New York City.