Below is a roundup of recent innovations at Florida specialty hospitals.
The Translational Research Institute for Metabolism and Diabetes in Winter Park is building a calorimeter laboratory, including a system capable of measuring a person's energy expenditure and the type of food he or she is burning. [Photo: TRI]
• In a partnership with Scripps Florida, researchers at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa are working on developing designer lymph nodes that can be created at will anywhere in the body to help provide a tailored immune response to fight cancer. A phase one, proof-of-concept clinical trial in patients with advanced melanoma is near completion. According to James Mulé, executive vice president of applied research at Moffitt, the process of creating lymph nodes begins with a blood draw and the harvesting of immune cells known as Dendritic cells from the patient's blood. Specific genes associated with the production of potent T cells, which are good at destroying tumors, are then introduced into those cells via a viral vector and allowed to grow in a Petri dish for six or seven days. The cells, which are injected under the skin, grow into little lymph nodes with 10 to 14 days. "We're no longer held hostage by what Mother Nature has given us," says Mulé.
• St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa is one of the first in the country to treat ischemic stroke patients with a minimally invasive catheter system that can remove blood clots and rapidly restore blood flow to the brain. The system is widely used in Europe.
• Researchers with the Dr. Kiran C. Patel Research Institute at Pepin Heart Hospital are conducting studies to see whether they can reverse or prevent permanent damage caused by a heart attack by delivering adult stem cells harvested from bone marrow into the affected area of the heart muscle.
• A national initiative aimed at eliminating blood infections in ICU units has been having a positive impact in Florida. The 72 ICU units in 36 hospitals participating in the initiative have reduced blood stream infections by 37% statewide since 2009, according to a report from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. According to the Florida Hospital Association, as of June 2010, the effort had prevented four deaths, decreased patient days in hospitals by 288 and saved the Florida healthcare system $3 million.
• Researchers at the Translational Research Institute for Metabolism and Diabetes, an effort between Florida Hospital and the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute at Lake Nona, are conducting studies aimed at uncovering the genetic causes of diabetes and furthering the understanding of fat metabolism. Dr. Steven Smith R. Smith, scientific director of TRI, says the project's goal is to develop personalized therapies for obesity and associated diseases based on an individual's metabolism.