Our Projects

Project Heart’s Grant Disbursements

Dec 2016 – $30,000 Dr. Tom Doyle, Using a Stent to Replace Open-Heart Surgery

Dr. Tom Doyle and his colleagues, Dr. Dana Janssen and Dr. George Nicholson, are pediatric interventional cardiologists who have received funding from Project Heart. They have collaborated with Vivonics, a biomedical company in Boston, to develop a novel vascular stent designed to keep a vessel known as the patent ductus arteriosus (PDA) open. Keeping the PDA open is often critical in providing blood flow to the lungs or body in children with congenital heart disease. This stent, placed in the cath lab, could be used in place of some open-heart surgery procedures in the future.


Sept 2017 – $25,000 Dr. Scott Baldwin, Building a Heart Valve in a “Dish”

Dr. Scott Baldwin’s laboratory focuses on understanding the basic principles of cardiac development to see if these same processes can be used to regenerate parts of the heart that are defective. His group is studying the origin of the cells that make heart valves, with the goal of ultimately using the patient’s own cells to grow a “valve in a dish” to replace the defective valve. Because the cells are the patient’s, they will be “alive” and grow with the patient. He is also studying how to regenerate blood vessels after heart injury.


Feb 2018 – $30,000 Dr. Jason Christensen, Lymphatic Imaging and Congenital Heart Disease

Dr. Jason Christensen is utilizing less invasive lymphatic imaging techniques currently used in cancer patients and applying similar methods to the field of pediatric cardiology. You may have heard your pediatrician comment on your child’s lymph nodes feeling bumpy or swollen when ill from the common cold or flu. Beyond this, you might not think of how the lymph system works dynamically. Lymph is the fluid surrounding every tissue in the body and originates from the liquid component of blood. It moves around the outside of every cell, helping absorb fat from the intestines and transporting infection fighting cells only to rejoin the blood as it returns to the heart. In children born with congenital heart disease (CHD), the large channels gathering lymph fluid can be develop abnormal connected to the lung or intestines, or be injured during a surgical operation. Rarely, abnormal lymph flow can be life-threatening. Noninvasive imaging of the lymph system is not routine because imaging methods need further development. With Project Heart’s support, we are applying novel magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital to map the lymph system in children with CHD and offer new strategies for the care of our patients


Sept 2018 – $45,000, Dr. Tom Doyle, Phase II of Stent Project

Dr. Tom Doyle and his colleagues have successfully designed two additional prototypes of their innovative cardiovascular stent. They have honed the design and are almost ready to move to animal trials. This is a huge step! This stent, placed in the PDA, could allow some infants to avoid open-heart surgery and instead have a less invasive cath procedure in the first days or weeks of life.


Dec 2018 – $30,000, Dr. Ann Kavanaugh and Dr. Jacqueline Shuplock, Identifying Risk Factors Prenatally in Babies with TGA

Transposition of the great arteries (TGA) is one of the most common complex forms of congenital heart disease and requires surgical intervention in the newborn period for survival. Some newborns with TGA are at an especially high risk for rapid instability and death after birth, thought to be related to certain differences of their heart and/or lung characteristics.

Currently, our ability to identify fetuses with TGA is excellent, however our ability to prenatally identify those at highest risk for instability after birth has remained elusive. Prior research has suggested certain possible fetal factors that could identify these high-risk babies.

We at Vanderbilt will hold a significant leadership position in this study with 20 other institutions participating. One major hurdle to our participation in this study is the ability to obtain fetal images of high enough quality to allow our own patients to participate as research subjects if they desire. Our current fetal echo machine did not produce images with high enough quality to meet the criteria needed for our patients to participate in the study. The financial support offered by Project Heart allowed us to both develop and lead this study here at Vanderbilt, and allow our patients with fetal TGA the opportunity to participate in this study (ultimately helping to improve outcomes for subsequent patients).

Sept 2019 – ACHA + Project Heart Partnership

Project Heart and ACHA have partnered to fund three fellows doing research that will further the field of CHD. Each fellow was given $10,000 in the form of a one-year grant. We believe in and support ACHA and the three grant recipients as they move the needle forward towards a cure for CHD! Read more about each grant recipient here.