UK's Brandon Fornwalt on Pediatric Heart Disease

Uploaded by universityofkentucky on 10.10.2012

VO: Brandon Fornwalt was one of 14 exceptional junior scientists in the nation to receive
the NIH Director's Early Independence Award, totaling 1.9 million dollars over five years.
Here he talks about his pediatric heart disease research.
The overall goal of our lab is to use imaging to understand pediatric heart disease physiology
and identify new treatments. Essentially I want to use my research to change the way
we practice and you know improve the lives of kids with heart disease.
So there are two main things I work on. One is pediatric heart failure.
…one side of the heart contracts, the other side of the heart contracts, and they’re
all out of sync. And so it’s an uncoordinated, we call it dissynchrony. And we can put in
a pacemaker to re-synchronize that heart. This is very common in adults, so there are
over 4,000 patients in the adult world who have been resynchronized and shown drastic
improvements in mortality, hospitalizations, symptoms. And what we’re trying to do is
understand how to use some of that technology and translate it down into kids.
We use imaging to try to identify which kids have that and whether or not we can put in
a pacemaker to have them contract in synchrony again. So that’s one focus. And we use cardiac
MRI to do that, where we take pictures of the heart with a big magnet.
The other focus is on pediatric obesity and the cardiovascular complications of obesity
in children. And for that project we are using mouse models where we feed the mice a high
fat diet and we watch what happens to their heart over time and they get big changes in
their hearts. Their hearts start to thicken, they start to not contract as well. And so
we are using our knowledge gained from those mouse models to understand what’s going
on in kids who have obesity. Which, amazingly enough, by the ages of nine, ten years old,
you’re already seeing changes in the heart in children, and we have no idea what the
long-term complications of that are.
Pediatric heart failure is an important disease, it doesn’t affect nearly as many people
or children as obesity does. And so that’s one of the areas I’ve moved into in the
past year, is obesity. I can say that I’m working on something that affects over one
in five kids. There’s not many things that affect one in five kids.