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Alumni, researchers help bioengineer better heart health

November 25, 2008

Research at ASU into treatments and cures for cardiovascular diseases is being boosted by a joint contribution from foundations led by two ASU alumni.

The Crown Foundation and the Haven Charitable Foundation announced on Nov. 17 a gift of $198,000 to support research led by Michael Caplan, an assistant professor in the Harrington Department of Bioengineering in ASU’s Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering.

The Crown Foundation was founded by Eric Crown, co-CEO and chairman of Insight Enterprises. In November he was inducted into ASU’s W.P. Carey School of Business  Hall of Fame. Crown studied at the school prior to starting Insight Enterprises. Kari and Paul Yatkowski are the founders of Haven Charitable Foundation.

“As an Arizona State University alumnus, it is an honor to help with potential scientific breakthroughs and to fund a project that might otherwise have gone unfunded,” said Kari Yatkowski, who is vice chair of the American Heart Association’s 49th Annual Phoenix Heart Ball.

Caplan’s project, Intracellular Signaling in Response to Biomaterials, will use the funding to examine the behavior of cells that come into contact with materials used to make stents, artificial vascular grafts and similar medical devices. 

There have been recurring cases of patients developing blood-clotting (thrombosis) and recurrence of their original cardiovascular problems (restenosis) caused when blood comes into contact with the materials of which the devices are made.

“We and others in the field of biomaterials are trying to make better materials that will avoid problems like this,” Caplan said. “If we are successful, we would not only be able to make better stents, but we would also be able to make artificial vascular grafts for replacement of small blood vessels.”

It’s not currently feasible to use artificial grafts to replace vessels smaller than 6 millimeters in diameter, due to problems with blood clotting, he said.

The funding “supports ASU’s commitment to remain at the forefront of medical discovery,” said ASU President Michael Crow. “Our scientists in the Harrington Department of Bioengineering are engaged in research and discoveries that will impact health care for generations.” 

The Crown Foundation works to assist nonprofit organizations that seek to improve quality of life through education and health efforts.

The Haven Charitable Foundation focuses on support of families with children, assisting agencies working on issues of health, education and domestic violence.