||The University of Pennsylvania
School of Medicine has launched a
new Center for Resuscitation Science. The Center will focus
on cellular research to aid in developing new and improved
techniques to treat cardiac arrest.
||Lance Becker, MD, Professor
of Emergency Medicine has been named
||The Center will consist of three full-time labs and a clinical
and administration branch.
||Initially, Dr. Becker’s new research
will focus on extending the five-minute window associated
with successful cardiac arrest resuscitation.
(PHILADELPHIA) – Lance
Becker, MD, Professor
of Emergency Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania
School of Medicine, has been named Director
of Penn’s new Center
for Resuscitation Science. The Center
will focus on cellular research to aid in developing new and improved
techniques to treat cardiac
arrest. The Center will consist of
three full-time labs and a clinical and administration branch.
“I believe this Center has the potential to save lives and
to revolutionize emergency patient care,” said Becker, who
was recruited from the University
of Chicago Hospital to lead the
Center. “My goal is to make resuscitation medicine a specialty
like trauma or critical
Dr. Becker’s previous contributions to cardiac care include
the development of the automatic
external defibrillator (AED).
The AED is a device that delivers a shock to restart the heart
of a person in cardiac arrest that can be used by non-medically
Initially, Dr. Becker’s new research will focus on extending
the five-minute window
associated with successful cardiac arrest resuscitation.
“If I can get a cardiac arrest patient in front of me within
five minutes, I have a good chance of saving them,” said
Becker. “But the chances of that are slim due to the average
response time of Emergency Medical Services, which tend to take
between 10-20 minutes to get you to a hospital. The thrust of my
work is to take that five minutes and stretch it into 15 minutes.”
Dr. Becker’s previous research has indicated the possibility
of extending the window.
When a person has a heart attack, their cells are deprived of
oxygen. So Dr. Becker began studying oxygen deprivation in cells.
“What we found when we studied oxygen deprivation
in cells astounded us,” explained Becker. “When cells
are deprived of oxygen for an hour there is only 4% cell death.
After four hours, cell death is only around 16%. Both of these
numbers are low. The amazing thing was once we re-introduced oxygen
to the cells they died off rapidly to almost 60% cell death. This
re-oxygenation injury we termed reperfusion injury. We concluded
that the re-introduction of oxygen must be handled carefully for
the majority of cells to survive. Our studies will be concentrating
on ways to prepare cells deprived of oxygen for the re-introduction
Dr. Becker’s group will also study the benefits of cooling
cardiac arrest patients. Previous studies have indicated that cooling
a patient immediately after arrest noticeably improves cell death
rates and resuscitation success. Recently, the American
Heart Association recommended that every cardiac arrest patient who qualifies should
“We have developed a whole program on why cooling saves
cells,” said Becker. “Immediate cooling cardiac arrest
victims increased their survival by 16%. That’s a very significant
improvement which could mean thousands of lives saved each year
as we get faster and better at cooling patients. Unfortunately,
we don’t know exactly how cooling saves cells, so we will
definitely be doing cellular experiments on the mechanisms of how
cooling works. The one thing we do know from our lab, the best
results require rapid cooling, yet we don’t have a good way
to rapidly cool patients.”
To develop more rapid cooling methods the Center for Resuscitation
Science will continue to develop a novel cold slurry - a slushy
mixture of salt and ice crystals - that can be injected intravenously for rapid internal cooling.
“Our current methods of cooling are far too slow,” said
Becker. “Injecting bio-compatible cold slurry is the best
way to rapidly drop internal temperature.”
Eventually, the goal is to create a slurry-delivery device that
both medically and non-medically trained people could use on cardiac
arrest patients to keep them cool during transport to a hospital.
“I don’t think the full benefits of cooling on humans
have been discovered yet,” continued Becker. “I’m
looking forward to working with the team to find the best ways
to rapidly cool patients.”
While Dr. Becker may be an expert in finding cardiac care solutions,
he will also be working on ways to extend brain function during
periods of resuscitation.
“Many of the things we see in the heart, are also true in
the brain and the focus of our new Center is to save both the heart
and the brain. Therapies for the heart may be adapted to work on
the brain. I am excited because Penn offers the ability for me
to work side-by-side with Penn neuroscientists to develop advanced
therapies to work for both organs.”
In recognition of his many scientific contributions and international
leadership, Dr. Becker was also recently elected as a member of
the Institute of Medicine (IOM), one of the nations’ highest
honors in biomedicine.
PENN Medicine is a $2.9 billion enterprise
dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical
research, and high-quality patient care. PENN Medicine consists
of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine (founded in
1765 as the nation's first medical school) and the University of
Pennsylvania Health System.
Penn's School of Medicine is ranked #2 in the nation for receipt
of NIH research funds; and ranked #3 in the nation in U.S. News
& World Report's most recent ranking of top research-oriented
medical schools. Supporting 1,400 fulltime faculty and 700 students,
the School of Medicine is recognized worldwide for its superior
education and training of the next generation of physician-scientists
and leaders of academic medicine.
The University of Pennsylvania Health System includes three hospitals,
all of which have received numerous national patient-care honors [Hospital
of the University of Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania Hospital, the nation's
first hospital; and Penn Presbyterian Medical Center]; a faculty practice
plan; a primary-care provider network; two multispecialty satellite
facilities; and home care and hospice.