Since 1990, Creighton University School of Medicine professor and researcher Devendra K. Agrawal, Ph.D., has been awarded more than $20 million in research grants to study coronary artery heart disease. He is determined to eradicate the impact of this heart disease—the number one killer of men and women in the United States. For Agrawal, it is not only about improving patient care. It is personal. His father died of cardiovascular disease, specifically myocardial infarction.
Agrawal’s recent research has focused on the major complications following coronary artery balloon angioplasty and intravascular stenting. This month he received a $3.12 million, five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health to examine the relationship between vitamin D status and the re-narrowing of the coronary arteries due to the uncontrolled growth of smooth muscle cells at the site of the coronary intervention.
Studies on angioplasty and implantation of stents – commonly used to open narrowed coronary arteries – show that re-narrowing of coronary arteries happens in about 20 percent of patients in the first year and in about 35-50 percent within five years. When this happens, the heart cannot get enough oxygen to function properly. Dr. Agrawal’s research focuses on discovering the underlying mechanism and bringing that discovery to the clinical setting.
“With the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in our population, our team is examining if vitamin D status has an effect on the re-narrowing of the coronary arteries and whether taking vitamin D supplementation is beneficial,” he said.
“Our research is about making discoveries that will improve patient care and outcomes in the treatment coronary artery disease,” Agrawal said. “That is my life’s passion,” he added.
Study co-investigators are Michael G. Del Core, M.D., chief of interventional cardiology and William J. Hunter III, M.D., professor of pathology, at Creighton University.