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Nikki Gillum Posnack

Examining BPA’s impact on developing heart cells

Nikki Gillum Posnack

“We know that once this chemical enters the body, it can be bioactive and therefore can influence how heart cells function,” says Nikki Gillum Posnack, Ph.D. “This is the first study to look at the impact BPA exposure can have on heart cells that are still developing.”

More than 8 million pounds of bisphenol A (BPA), a common chemical used in manufacturing plastics, is produced each year for consumer goods and medical products. This endocrine disruptor reaches 90 percent of the population, and excessive exposure to BPA, e.g., plastic bottles, cash register receipts, and even deodorant, is associated with adverse cardiovascular events that range from heart arrhythmias and angina to atherosclerosis, the leading cause of death in the U.S.

To examine the impact BPA could have in children, researchers with Children’s National Heart Institute and the Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation evaluated the short-term risks of BPA exposure in a preclinical setting. This experimental research finds developing heart cells respond to short-term BPA exposure with slowed heart rates, irregular heart rhythms and calcium instabilities.

While more research is needed to provide clinical recommendations, this preclinical model paves the way for future study designs to see if young patients exposed to BPA from medical devices or surgical procedures have adverse cardiac events and altered cardiac function.

“Existing research explores the impact endocrine disruptors, specifically BPA, have on adults and their cardiovascular and kidney function,” notes Nikki Gillum Posnack, Ph.D., a study author and assistant professor at Children’s National and The George Washington University. “We know that once this chemical enters the body, it can be bioactive and therefore can influence how heart cells function. This is the first study to look at the impact BPA exposure can have on heart cells that are still developing.”

The significance of this research is that plastics have revolutionized the way clinicians and surgeons treat young patients, especially patients with compromised immune or cardiac function.

Implications of Dr. Posnack’s future research may incentivize the development of alternative products used by medical device manufacturers and encourage the research community to study the impact of plastics on sensitive patient populations.

“It’s too early to tell how this research will impact the development of medical devices and equipment used in intensive care settings,” notes Dr. Posnack. “We do not want to interfere with clinical treatments, but, as scientists, we are curious about how medical products and materials can be improved. We are extending this research right now by examining the impact of short-term BPA exposure on human heart cells, which are developed from stem cells.”

This research, which appears as an online advance in Nature’s Scientific Reports, was supported by the National Institutes of Health under awards R00ES023477, RO1HL139472 and UL1TR000075, Children’s Research Institute and the Children’s National Heart Institute. NVIDIA Corporation provided GPUs, computational devices, for this study.

pediatric medical device competition winners

Winning innovators of pediatric medical device competition announced

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The Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation at Children’s National Health System hosted the 4th annual Pediatric Surgical Innovation Symposium on Oct. 8. One of the highlights: Six pediatric medical device innovations that address a significant unmet need were awarded a total of $250,000 in grant money by the National Capital Consortium for Pediatric Device Innovation (NCC-PDI).

Kurt Newman, M.D., President and CEO of Children’s National said: “Even though they are a small portion of the patient population, it’s critical for children to have medical devices that are built specifically for them. Children’s National is committed to bringing together the key stakeholders including innovators, clinicians, policy makers, and investors, to support advancements in the care of children.”

“We are honored to recognize these exciting innovations with this funding,” said Kolaleh Eskandanian, Ph.D., Executive Director of NCC-PDI and the Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation at Children’s National. “It takes millions of dollars to bring a device to market and our program provides the funding needed to bridge the critical gap that often follows the prototyping phase in life cycle of the device.”

       Winning innovations receiving $50,000 awards are:

  • Maternal Life, Palo Alto, Calif. – low-cost closed system that captures and administers colostrum to newborns with zero percent loss
  • JustRight Surgical, Louisville, Colo. – second generation surgical 5mm stapler scaled for a wider range of pediatric surgical procedures and bringing the benefits of laparoscopy to patients
  • Lully, San Francisco – moisture sensor and Smart Pod monitor wirelessly connected to a smartphone app to prevent bedwetting episodes
  • Center for Advanced Sensor Technology, University of Maryland Baltimore County, Baltimore – low-cost, disposable multifunctional incubator for at-risk, low-birth-weight babies

Winning innovations receiving $25,000 awards are:

  • Nebula Industries, Melrose, Mass. – quick-release medical tape to prevent neonatal and pediatric skin injuries
  • May & Meadow, Inc., Redwood City, Calif. – low-cost, mobile medical device for assessing feeding ability in infants at risk for feeding problems