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14 July 1998
For Immediate Release

Cardiovascular Research Fellow at Johns Hopkins to Enhance Promising Treatment for Abnormal Heartbeats

Dr. Henry Halperin, Associate Professor of Medicine and Biomedical Engineering at The Johns Hopkins University's School of Medicine, has been awarded the 1998 Frank T. McClure Fellowship in Cardiovascular Research by Dr. Gary Smith, Director of The Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL). Through this fellowship, Halperin plans to significantly enhance a promising treatment for abnormal, fast heartbeats - a condition affecting thousands of people each year.

The goal of the McClure Fellowship is to encourage long-term collaborative research efforts between investigators at APL and The Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, with an emphasis on developing methods to enhance prediction of potential heart attack victims and evaluation of preventative therapeutic measures. The fellowship is named in honor of the former APL Deputy Director Frank McClure, who died in 1973. McClure was one of the initiators of the APL/JHU Medical Institutions collaborative biomedical program (1965) and served as chairman of the Laboratory's Research Center for nearly 25 years.

For the first time in the history of the fellowship, a post-doctoral candidate will team with this year's recipient. The post-doctoral candidate, who will be announced later this year, will focus on developing engineering and physical science solutions to important medical problems.

Dr. Halperin's research under the McClure Fellowship will focus on developing better methods for diagnosing and treating cardiac arrhythmias, or abnormal, fast heartbeats. Dr. Halperin will look at better methods for treating atrial fibrillation, one of the most detrimental arrhythmias responsible for approximately one-fifth of all strokes (about 75,000) that occur each year. "We're trying to apply new imaging methods to look at the anatomy of the heart to see where arrhythmias are coming from, and then use that same knowledge to help us treat them," says Dr. Halperin.

One very promising treatment for atrial fibrillation, according to Dr. Halperin, is using ablation to selectively destroy tiny areas of the heart that cause arrhythmias. But the current procedure uses x-rays, which is like looking through a clouded window, according to Halperin, making it difficult for surgeons to localize these tiny areas of the heart. "We'll be looking at combining magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, with electrical measurements from inside the heart," says Halperin, "which will enhance both the diagnosis and treatment of arrhythmias without radiation. We hope to improve the accuracy to the point the MRI-guided ablative procedure can be performed routinely."

Dr. Halperin is a member of the American Heart Assocation's Advanced Cardiac Life Support Committee, and Director of The Johns Hopkins Hospital CPR Team and Pacemaker Clinic. He joined the staff of The JHU School of Medicine in 1984, and became associate professor in 1990.

Halperin graduated with highest distinction from Purdue University in 1971, receiving a bachelor of science degree in physics. He earned a master of arts degree in physics from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1972, and a doctor of medicine degree from Louisiana State University, New Orleans, in 1977.

The Applied Physics Laboratory is a not-for-profit laboratory and independent division of The Johns Hopkins University. APL conducts research and development primarily for national security and for nondefense projects of national and global significance. APL is located midway between Baltimore and Washington, D.C., in Laurel, Md.

For more information contact:
Kristi Marren
JHU Applied Physics Laboratory
Phone: 240-228-6268
        Karen Infield
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions
Phone: 410-955-1534
E-mail: Kinfeld@jhmi.edu