Farhan Zafar, MD, MS, and David Morales, MD

Working together for over 12 years, Zafar and Morales recently received an award of a R01 as co-principal investigators by the NHLBI. Zafar is the director of Thoracic Organ Procurement, and Morales is the surgical director of both the Heart and Lung Transplant Programs. Their research addresses the fact that 30% of children die waiting for suitable heart and lung transplants, yet many of these organs go to waste. Zafar and Morales developed a novel risk stratification tool, machine learning and 3D imaging software for cardiac and lung allograft placement. For example, their work includes a virtual transplantation platform for correctly matching organ volume with the recipient, developed in collaboration with Ryan Moore, MD, the director of Heart Institute Digital Media and 3D Modeling Program, and Jason Woods, PhD, the director of the Center for Pulmonary Imaging Research. They continue to study how image-guided organ volume matching is superior to the over 30-year-old method of weight matching. Indeed, through advanced machine learning methods and innovative radiological and 3D reconstruction techniques, the team believes they can significantly increase the positive impact of pediatric thoracic transplantation and maximize utilization of available organs.

Andrea Beaton, MD

Beaton’s research focuses on tackling rheumatic heart disease (RHD), which affects over 40 million people around the globe. While nearly eliminated in high-income settings, such as the United States, rheumatic heart disease affects up to one out of every 100 children in low-income countries such as Uganda, where much of Beaton’s work takes place. In April of this year, Cincinnati Children’s became one of five centers within a prestigious 16-million-dollar American Heart Association Research Network, focused on using technology and innovation to improve health equality. Beaton will lead this initiative as center director and project principal investigator, working to bring guideline-based care to children living with RHD around the world through automated intelligence guided diagnosis and creation of a cloud-based platform to power community-based care, quality improvement and research. Internal partnerships with Judith Dexheimer, PhD, and the Cincinnati Children’s bioinformatics team, Moore and the Heart Institute’s Digital Experience Center will be further augmented by a collaborative national and international team.

Douglas Millay, PhD

Millay and his lab continue to examine the molecular mechanisms underlying fusion of regenerative stem cells within skeletal muscle, which will advance our understanding of the muscular dystrophies that most often afflict children. His group identified the genes myomaker and myomerger as master regulators of muscle stem cell fusion and muscle repair, suggesting new strategies to treat human myopathies and muscular dystrophies. Indeed, this cutting edge research area recently received funding through the Research Innovation for Scientific Knowledge (RISK) initiative within the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases of the NIH, designed to encourage projects that are risky or unconventional. Indeed, the RISK award is highly coveted and is only given to the most innovative projects around the country, speaking to the outstanding research program within the Millay lab and that new treatments could be on the horizon for select pediatric muscle diseases.