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Can microbubbles save a life?

Alumni star's research aims to prevent blood clots after a heart attack

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Thomas Porter, H'88, F'91, represented the VCU School of Medicine at the 2019 Alumni Stars ceremony. Photography by Jud Froelich

Thomas Porter, H'88, F'91, is on the brink of a scientific breakthrough.

Now the Theodore F. Hubbard Distinguished Chair of Cardiology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, Porter has spent many years studying use of microbubbles to break up blood clots. He presented his most recent findings from a clinical trial in March 2019 at the American College of Cardiology meeting.

The study demonstrated that the procedure improved blood flow in the major blood vessels that are the source of heart attacks, and also improved blood flow to the microvasculature, the smallest blood vessels in the body, where scarring can occur.

“For probably the better part of 20 to 25 years, we’ve been trying to find ways to address this problem of the scarring and damage that occurs downstream in a heart attack,” he says. "A lot of research has gone into this. But this is really one of the first treatments that’s been tested in humans that actually works.”

Porter’s interest in microbubbles began in 1990, when he was a cardiology fellow on the MCV Campus. At that time, he explored using the tiny bubbles as an ultrasound-enhancing agent for imaging, work that he continued when he joined the faculty of UNMC in 1992.

Porter plans further study in Amsterdam, where ambulance technicians will inject heart attack patients with the microbubbles. The next step is a multinational ambulance trial and, ideally, Food and Drug Administration approval in the U.S.

Porter recently returned to Richmond, Virginia, to be honored at the 2019 Alumni Stars ceremony, a biennial event that celebrates alumni from across the university's academic units for their extraordinary personal and professional achievements.


 

You can learn more about Porter’s research in the autumn 2019 issue of The Beat, a publication of the VCU Health Pauley Heart Center.

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