News Release

August 18, 2011

CONTACT: Greg Richter

Penn Medicine - University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and University of Pennsylvania Health System

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Penn Medicine Researcher Receives Burroughs Wellcome Fund Grant to Study Congenital Heart Arrhythmias


Stacey Rentschler, MD, PhD, cardiovascular instructor, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP), has received the Burroughs Wellcome Fund's Career Award for Medical Scientists. The award provides $700,000 over five years to enable Rentschler to conduct research on Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, a congenital disorder that affects how the heart beats.

Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome occurs when an abnormal electrically active circuit is found between the atria and ventricles of the heart, sometimes causing heart palpitations or sudden death. Working in the laboratory of Jonathan Epstein, MD, William Wikoff Smith Professor of Cardiovascular Research, Rentschlerís research aims to uncover new insights on the causative developmental and genetic aspects of what forms those electrically active connections.

Rentschler and colleagues, including Vickas Patel, MD, PhD, assistant professor and director of molecular arrhythmia research at HUP, are studying a signaling pathway, Notch, which can cause a similar syndrome in an animal model if activated. The new grant will assist Rentschler and her team in researching whether changes in Notch signals and other signaling pathways play a role in human Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome. The team also found that Notch may be able to alter the properties of heart cells to make them more electrically active, which may have therapeutic implications in developing a biologic pacemaker.

Additionally, Rentschler received a K08 award from NHLBI for $137,976 per year for five years to investigate the role of Notch signaling in arrhythmogenesis.


Penn Medicine is one of the world's leading academic medical centers, dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and excellence in patient care. Penn Medicine consists of the Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (founded in 1765 as the nation's first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System, which together form a $4.3 billion enterprise.

The Perelman School of Medicine has been ranked among the top five medical schools in the United States for the past 17 years, according to U.S. News & World Report's survey of research-oriented medical schools. The School is consistently among the nation's top recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health, with $392 million awarded in the 2013 fiscal year.

The University of Pennsylvania Health System's patient care facilities include: The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania -- recognized as one of the nation's top "Honor Roll" hospitals by U.S. News & World Report; Penn Presbyterian Medical Center; Chester County Hospital; Lancaster General Health; Penn Wissahickon Hospice; and Pennsylvania Hospital -- the nation's first hospital, founded in 1751. Additional affiliated inpatient care facilities and services throughout the Philadelphia region include Chestnut Hill Hospital and Good Shepherd Penn Partners, a partnership between Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network and Penn Medicine.

Penn Medicine is committed to improving lives and health through a variety of community-based programs and activities. In fiscal year 2013, Penn Medicine provided $814 million to benefit our community.