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St. David’s Rehabilitation Hospital Joins Stroke Genetics Study

St. David’s Rehabilitation Hospital Joins Stroke Genetics Study

St. David’s Office of Research is pleased to announce that St. David’s Rehabilitation Hospital is a site in The STRONG Study (The Stroke, sTress, RehabilitatiON, and Genetics Study). This exciting new study is looking at the genetics of functional recovery after strong.

Patients at the St. David’s Rehabilitation Hospital who meet the criteria for the study will have an opportunity to participate. A person’s response to functional recovery with rehabilitation following a stroke is highly variable. Determining how stress and genetics impact a person’s response to rehabilitation will help create a more effective, individualized therapeutic regime for each patient.

The lead researchers in the case are E. Alison Holman, Ph.D., FNP, and Steven C. Cramer, MD, from the University of California at Irvine. Dr. Holman is a Professor of Nursing and Dr. Cramer is a Professor of Neurology.  Dr. Robert Lee, Stroke Rehabilitation Medical Director, is the Principal Investigator at St. David’s Rehabilitation Hospital.

For more information about the study, visit

Harmony robot comes to St. David’s

The Harmony upper extremity robot is at St. David’s Medical Center Rehabilitation Hospital. Stroke patients are currently being enrolled in to this ongoing study.  Dr. Robert Lee, MD, is collaborating with Dr. Ashish Deshpande, PhD, at University of Texas, Austin, ReNeu Lab to gather pilot data on the utility and usability of this robotics system for stroke rehabilitation.


Breakthrough Study of Atrial Fibrillation Genetics

A breakthrough study – the largest meta-analysis of genome-wide association studies for atrial fibrillation to date — was recently published in Nature Genetics.  St. David’s Medical Center’s Texas Cardiac Arrhythmia Institute medical and research directors Andrea Natale, MD and Sanghamitra Mohanty, MD were members collaborated with over 100 colleagues, including the Broad Institute of MIT, Harvard. The clinical research data from more than 500,000 individuals identified 97 loci associated with A-fib, including 67 new biomarkers. This study will significantly extend our understanding of the biological pathways underlying A-Fib and could facilitate the development of therapeutics as well.

Supplementary Figure 2 from the publication, a Venn diagram for genes near sentinel variants from combined ancestry meta-analysis within enriched gene sets, by functional groups.

Zoltan Nadasday iNAV Symposium

Dr. Zoltan Nadasdy, Ph.D, a Senior Research Scientist with Sarah Cannon Research Institute who works at St. David’s Neuroscience and Spine Institute was recently invited to present at the prestigious Interdisciplinary Navigation (iNAV) symposium in Quebec, Canada.  Zoltan presented his recent research investigating the environment-dependent scaling of neuronal representations of space in the human entorhinal cortex.   Congratulations, Zoltan!

Another First for Heart Hospital of Austin

Heart Hospital of Austin is the first facility in Texas to enroll patients in a new clinical trial to determine whether the CardioMEMSTM HF System can improve survival and quality of life for those with mild to severe heart failure. The study aims to build on a previous trial that found the wireless monitoring device reduced hospital admissions by up to 37 percent in patients with moderate heart failure.  Read the full press release.

Congratulations to the study team at HHOA!

Robots help stroke survivors with rehab

Dr. Robert Lee, MD, Medical Director of Stroke Rehabilitation and Neurological Recovery for St. David’s Rehabilitation Hospital, was featured on KVUE talking about our newest rehabilitation research collaboration with The University of Texas at Austin. Dr. Ashish Desphande, PhD, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Director of the ReNeu Laboratory at UT Austin is the inventor of the Harmony upper-body rehabilitation robot.    St. David’s is proud to partner with Dr. Deshpande and UT to study clinical applications of this new technology.


Brain games: Do they work?

Zoltan Nadasdy, a Sr. Research Scientist working at St. David’s Medical Center, was featured in a recent CBS News story discussing the effectiveness of cognitive training. Click the watch button below to see the story on KEYE!


St. David’s Medical Center among nation’s first hospitals to test spine-fusion implant 

AUSTIN, Texas – St. David’s Medical Center is one of ten facilities in the country participating in a post-market study of outcomes for patients treated with a new orthopedic implant designed to reduce blood loss, decrease surgery times and shorten hospital stays.

The Spineology Duo Lumbar Interbody Fusion System is an FDA-510(k) cleared implant and is the first to combine a high-performance plastic called polyetheretherketone (PEEK) with titanium and mesh elements. It dramatically reduces the size of the incision required to implant a device compared to traditional systems, and the implant’s design helps to facilitate spinal support and fusion.

“This implant has the potential to significantly reduce complications,” Dr. Craig Kuhns, orthopedic spine surgeon at St. David’s Medical Center, said. “Additionally, it makes for a much easier post-operative course for my patients.”

The implant is designed to benefit patients diagnosed with degenerative disc disease; most individuals age 60 and older have some disc degeneration, according to the Arthritis Foundation.

St. David’s Medical Center

St. David’s Medical Center, which is part of St. David’s HealthCare, is a full-service medical center offering comprehensive medical care at three locations—St. David’s Medical Center, Heart Hospital of Austin and St. David’s Georgetown Hospital.

Located in Central Austin, St. David’s Medical Center includes a 374-bed acute care hospital and a 64-bed rehabilitation hospital providing comprehensive inpatient and outpatient care. It is home to the internationally renowned Texas Cardiac Arrhythmia Institute and St. David’s Neuroscience & Spine Institute. The hospital provides a complete range of women’s services, including its acclaimed maternity unit, maternal-fetal medicine, a high-risk maternal and neonatal transport team, the region’s largest and most sophisticated Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and The Breast Center; complex surgical services; a comprehensive Bariatric Surgery Center; and a 24-hour emergency department. In 2018, St. David’s Medical Center was named among the Top 50 Hospitals in the nation by Healthgrades.


St. David’s is First in TX to debut a new exoskeleton

St. David’s Rehabilitation Hospital (SDRH) is one of three clinical sites in the world to participate in a study of a new exoskeleton being developed by Suit X, a Berkeley, CA startup company. Dr. Juan Latorre, Medical Director of the Spinal Cord Injury and Amputee Rehabilitation programs at SDRH, is the Principal Investigator of the study. Click the watch button below to see the story on KVUE!


Dr. Steve Cramer – Grand Rounds Stroke

Renowned stroke rehabilitation researcher from UC Irvine, Dr. Steve Cramer, M.D., presented a St. David’s Medical Center Grand Rounds on stroke rehabilitation research.   Dr. Cramer is an active collaborator with researchers at St. David’s HealthCare on multiple stroke rehabilitation projects.


Heart Hospital of Austin, in Collaboration with CardioThoracic and Vascular Surgeons, is participating in a research trial on transcatheter mitral valve replacement (TMVR) with the Medtronic Intrepid™ TMVR system in patients with severe symptomatic mitral regurgitation. This study is being conducted to evaluate both the safety and efficacy of this prosthetic mitral valve system in patients who are not candidates for standard open-heart surgery.

To learn more, click here.

ESC 2017: Barcelona

Mitra Mohanty, MD, Director of Research at Texas Cardiac Arrhythmia Institute led by Executive Medical Director Andrea Natale, MD, presented 6 abstracts in Barcelona, Spain at the European Society of Cardiology Congress (ESC 2017), August 26-30.  The ESC is the world’s largest cardiovascular congress with over 500 expert sessions and more than 4500 abstracts contributing to the advancement of cardiovascular medicine worldwide.  Additionally, she had an interview published on Medpage Today. It was based on a late-breaking trial (PRECISION-ABPM trial) presented at ESC 2017 by a group from Switzerland.

Here is video and EP Lab Digest.

They also shared it via EP Lab Digest’s Facebook page:

Cancer Research: Looking for Answers Inside Cells

Research involving the DNA inside tumors furthers the understanding of cancers at their deepest roots: the cellular level. Scientists researching tumor samples use a process known as DNA sequencing in which they look at the specific order, or arrangement, of the cell’s genetic components, or they may investigate genetic mutations in the cell.

Researchers utilize different methods of obtaining the genetic code of tumors: sequencing smaller fragments from a large number of cells versus sequencing larger samples from a small number of cells.  Sequencing smaller fragments is more common in today’s research world, but has a disadvantage that tumor mutations that occur together within a cell are unlikely to be sequenced together.   Additionally, researchers can adjust the sequencing “coverage”, which is the number of times a particular site in a genome is sequenced.

Variations in sequencing methods prompted researchers led by Max Shpak, Ph.D., to study scientists’ ability to accurately estimate the amount of genetic variation in biological populations, such as among cells in a tumor, from smaller sequencing fragments.

The results of the study conducted by Dr. Shpak and his co-investigators imply that, all else being equal, low coverage sequencing and genome pooling provide improved estimates of genetic variation.  However, the cost for better variation estimates is reduced information about mutations that occur together within the same cell.  The study utilized cells from a malignant lung tumor, and its findings may be applied to active research involving the genetics of cancer cells.


Shpak M., Y. Ni, J. Lu, P. Mueller 2017. Variance in estimated pairwise genetic distance under high vs. low coverage sequencing: the contribution of linkage disequilibrium. Theoretical Population Biology 117: 51-63


In collaboration with Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgeons (CTVS), St. David’s Healthcare participated in the Medtronic PERIGON (Avalus™ valve) Trial. The goal of the study is to determine the safety and effectiveness of the Avalus™ aortic valve bioprosthesis in patients with aortic valve disease. Dr. Faraz Kerendi, Principal Investigator along with other cardiothoracic surgeons from CTVS, performed the surgical procedures for the trial at Heart Hospital of Austin and St. David’s South Austin Medical Center.  Patients requiring aortic valve replacement for a diseased, damaged, or malfunctioning native or prosthetic valve were eligible to participate in the study.

When asked about his participation in research studies like PERIGON, Faraz Kerendi, MD, replied, “We are very pleased to be able to provide our patients with access to clinical trials investigating newly developed technology while participating in the clinical trial process to make this new valve available to all patients and physicians.”

This international study began in March of 2014 and by July 31, 2017 had enrolled over 1100 patients worldwide. The study data resulted in FDA approval for commercial use in the United States and CE Mark approval in Europe for the Avalus™ aortic valve.  Patients enrolled in the trial will continue to have research appointments for the next 5 years to check on their health and well-being. St. David’s Healthcare is proud to be a part this technological advancement in cardiac surgical devices.