Israel is at the forefront of cardiac and chest trauma innovation

Perhaps it is no secret that Israeli researchers are pioneers in innovation in a diverse array of fields. And perhaps one of the medical fields in which a sizable number of patients around the world could reap the benefits of Israeli ingenuity is cardiology. At any given time millions of people throughout the world are suffering from heart disease. Many of whom are at risk of death. However, many patients could soon gain a glimmer of hope in terms of their cardiac treatment options, which could ultimately, improve quality of life for numerous patients.

Israel21c reported in their June 2016 article, ‘Disease in a dish’ among Israeli wonders in heart research, that Israeli researchers may have discovered a breakthrough treatment that could, in the long term, eliminate the need for pacemakers, defibrillators and donor transplants in cardiac patients.

In the article, Abigail Klein Leichman reported on the innovative treatments being developed in Israel. Dr. Lior Gepstein, who is director of cardiology at Rambam Health Care Campus in Haifa and holder of the Sohnis Family Chair in Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine, told Israel21c about the treatment he considers to be the most ambitious:

“The most ambitious project is to take a cardiac patient’s cells, reprogram them and transplant them back to a patient’s diseased heart to regenerate its function.”

Gepstein went on to explain why this technique is necessary:

“Obviously, doctors can’t take out a patient’s heart to study genetic mutations that cause life-threatening conditions such as cardiomyopathy (heart muscle disease) or inherited arrythmogenic syndrome.”

Gepstein further explained:

“However, by taking a patient’s skin cells and reprogramming them as heart cells – whose DNA is identical to the diseased cells — the genetics can be studied and drugs can be tested in the culture dish to find out which will work best for the specific patient.”

Gepstein went on to describe how this unique cardiac innovation has opened new avenues for the pharmaceutical industry:

“‘This also provides the pharmaceutical industry, for the first time, with disease models of heart cells that they can use to develop new drugs,’ says Gepstein.”

Gepstein then stated how this new opportunity could save billions of dollars on drug development and could potentially eliminate drugs that have negative effects on heart health:

“If you have a promising drug with possible adverse side effects on the heart, you can test it in a lab dish instead of spending billions on development. Right now we are trying to find collaborations with the pharma industry.”

Gepstein further elaborated on the issue that this treatment seeks to solve:

“The heart cannot regenerate itself. Any dead areas [following a heart attack] are replaced by scar tissue and cannot contract, which leads to heart failure, the biggest problem we are facing as cardiologists.”

Gepstein further stated how Israel is a trailblazer in this field of cardiac medicine and how other researchers have taken note of the treatments coming out of Israel:

“‘A lot of labs have followed our lead, and this is a good sign that it is of great interest,’ he says.” “We were the leaders in the emerging field of cardiac regenerative medicine, and in many aspects we are still the world leaders in this area.”

Futhermore, Leichman went on to report about another nifty way that Gepstein’s  lab is changing cardiac medicine – that is, by generating pacemaker cells:

“Gepstein explains that as we age, our heart’s pacemaker cells can start malfunctioning. Instead of implanting an electronic pacemaker as cardiac surgeons do today, they could implant the patient’s own brand-new pacemaker cells generated from IPSCs.”

Leichman further reported that Gepstein’s lab is also delving into optogenetics in an effort to develop a light-induced pacemaker and/or defibrillator. Ideally, this novel invention would successfully regulate the heart’s electrical activity by way of a light-sensitive protein garnered from algae.

Gepstein told Israel21c in the article that Israel is leading the way in terms of adapting this technique to cardiology:

“‘People have been using this in neuroscience but we are the first to use it in the heart,’ says Gepstein, who published a paper about this research in Nature Biotechnology.”

Furthermore, a treatment that could potentially transform the way chest (thoracic) trauma patients are treated by medics is the Israeli-born idea of developing the C-Lant self-fixation sealing device. The device is designed for military and civilian medics and is aimed at preventing heart and lung collapse before a patient with chest trauma arrives at the hospital.

Israel21c reported in their March 2016 article, Novel device boosts survival chances after chest trauma, that the C-lant device was developed by Technion graduate Irina Kavounovsky and her mechanical engineer father, Igor Vaysbeyn. The pair was able to develop the device through their organization Vigor Medical Technologies, alongside Florida-based biomed investor Dr. John Abeles.

In the article, Abigail Klein Leichman reported on the chest trauma innovation’s traction in notability:

“Vigor won the Innovex Disrupt contest at the February 3 iNNOVEX2016 conference in Israel, whose sponsors and partners included multinationals such as Google and Israeli crowdfunding VC OurCrowd.”

What’s more, Leichman reported that there are three ways medical personnel can  treat chest trauma:

“There are currently three methods first-responders can use to treat chest (thoracic) trauma – caused, for example, by a stab or gunshot wound. The danger is that the lungs can collapse as air leaks out, and organs inside the thorax can shift. If treated surgically within an hour, the injured person has an 80 percent chance of survival.”

Leichman explained two of the ways that first responders currently treat chest trauma:

“One emergency approach is a sealant to prevent leakage of liquid and air from the punctured lung. This is difficult to fixate in the field because the wound is often covered with dirt, blood, fabric or hair.”

Leichman went on to explain the second and most common method:

“A more common tactic is to insert a thin needle to perforate the second lung in order to equalize thoracic pressure and temporarily prevent shifting of organs until the patient gets to the hospital.”

Finally, Leichman described the third method:

“The third and most effective method is inserting a large drainage tube in the chest, but this must be done by a doctor in a minor surgical procedure requiring sterile conditions, surgical instruments and local anesthesia.”

The point in explaining these current methods lies in the fact that the C-Lant device eliminates the need for all three of these and provides a potentially more effective solution.

Kavounovsky told Israel21c how the C-Lant device works:

“It’s a very simple device that self-sticks from the inside and outside without tape or sutures, so you don’t need additional accessories. It can be inserted through the wound or through its own opening made by the sharp point on its tip. As soon as the tip perforates the layers of the thoracic wall it jumps back automatically into the handle, like an EpiPen, so there is no trauma to the patient and it immediately seals the wound.”

Additionally, the device has an antibacterial coating for infection prevention and is designed to be a one-size-fits-all which automatically adjusts to fit the anatomy of the individual.

With a countless number of patients suffering from heart disease around the globe, and with chest trauma being the No. 1 cause of death worldwide, it is evident that healthcare professionals throughout the world should keep a watchful eye on the latest cardiac and trauma innovations coming out of Israel. After all, imagining how many lives might be saved is an intriguing thought.

About the Author
Allison Barksdale is a senior convergence journalism major at Abilene Christian who has a heart for Israel and enjoys about Israel's numerous contributions in her spare time.