ECU Inventor, Methods of Reducing Myocardial Infarction

Imagine that someone suffering from a heart attack could have their life saved by the administration of a protein instead of having to undergo a stent placement or heart transplant surgery.

Dr. Jitka Virag, an associate professor in the Department of Physiology at the ECU Brody School of Medicine, says the EphrinA1-Fc protein could one day make that possible.

According to Virag, heart disease is a major public health problem, especially heart attacks. One in seven deaths annually are due to heart attacks. She is studying how to repair heart attacks using a protein that is already in a healthy heart. Her team has found that injured cells lose their expression of this protein and adding it back into the injured heart greatly reduces the damage.

Her research received nationwide recognition last year when it was selected as the winner of the STAT Madness contest which searches for the “best innovations in science and medicine.” Out of a field of more than 64 prestigious institutions, including Harvard, Stanford, Yale and MIT.