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Natalia Trayanova is awarded the 2013 NIH Director’s Pioneer Award for her project “virtual electrophysiology laboratory”

September 30, 2013

Natalia Trayanova, PhD

Natalia Trayanova, PhD, Murray B. Sachs Professor of Biomedical Engineering (photo courtesy of Marshall Clarke)

Natalia Trayanova, Murray B. Sachs Professor of Biomedical Engineering, has been awarded the prestigious 2013 NIH Director’s Pioneer Award for her proposal and vision for a “virtual electrophysiology lab.”

The virtual electrophysiology lab is a highly innovative patient-specific heart modeling environment (heart simulator) that accurately represents electro­physi­ological and electromechanical cardiac functions and interactions from the level of the molecule to that of the entire organ. The heart simulator uses the patient’s MRI scans as an input to “personalize” the heart model. The virtual electrophysiology laboratory will be used in the clinic to allow doctors to develop personalized treatment plans for patients with heart rhythm or pump disorders, and to assess the individual’s risk of developing arrhythmia.

Trayanova’s award will provide $2.5 million in direct support, and $4.1 million in total support, over five years for the development and implementation of a patient-specific heart modeling system.

“Natalia embodies the unique capabilities of a visionary biomedical engineer embedded in a world class medical school: she employs knowledge of the heart from the molecular, cellular, tissue and organ level scales to build exceptionally accurate models of the heart and ischemic disease,” said Elliot McVeigh, Director of the Johns Hopkins Department of Biomedical Engineering. “These models can have a profound impact on directing therapy for patients with heart disease.”

The NIH Director’s Pioneer Award program supports individual scientists of exceptional creativity, who propose pioneering — and possibly transforming approaches — to major challenges in biomedical and behavioral research. To be considered pioneering, the proposed research must reflect ideas substantially different from those pursued in the investigator’s laboratory or elsewhere, and have the potential to produce an unusually high impact on a broad area of biomedical or behavioral research.

Adoption of Dr. Trayanova’s methodology will have a dramatic impact, resulting in a significant reduction of health care costs, and in improvement of patient well being because the evaluation of the patient heart function will be carried out non-invasively by the simulator, without the need to access the heart directly to gather diagnostic information.

This project seeks to shift the paradigm of cardiac care in patients with myocardial infarctions and is expected to lead to superior diagnoses and treatment.

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