discoveries magazine

Big Leaps for Baby Steps

Dr. Evan Zahn and Tony Daly

Tony Daly is a typically active toddler who loves to play superheroes. But as a newborn, his heart needed help: Tony was born prematurely with a rare condition, patent ductus arteriosus. Dr. Evan Zahn fixed Tony’s heart with a novel procedure developed with his team. Now, at 3, Tony’s heart seems as strong as the Hulk’s. Photo: Ted Catanzaro

Gifts that Count: Aging and Longevity

It’s a big job to heal tiny hearts but, with philanthropic support, Evan Zahn, MD, helps even the smallest cardiac patients thrive.

Director of the Guerin Family Congenital Heart Program, Zahn developed a procedure to treat patent ductus arteriosus (PDA), the most common heart problem among extremely premature babies. He and his team use ultrasound guidance to place a tiny plug into the affected part of the heart via a catheter inserted through a leg vein. Now they can conduct this delicate work without removing the infant from the protective environment of the Cedars-Sinai Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, part of the Maxine Dunitz Children’s Health Center. Their pioneering efforts prompted a multicenter national trial of this technique with promising early results.

Zahn’s team also harnessed 3D printing technology to build reconstructed models of individual patients’ hearts. The surgeons use these detailed renderings to plan and practice transcatheter interventions before performing the procedures on vulnerable newborns.

► The campaign also generated funds to help Cedars-Sinai physicians and scientists study the links between preterm delivery and vascular dysfunction in women while enhancing collaboration between health professionals in maternal-fetal medicine and critical care.

Campaign Feat

Ending ALS

Goal: Stop amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in its tracks.

Outcome: Philanthropic investment was instrumental in transforming Cedars-Sinai’s approach to fighting this devastating illness. Critical animal model research showed that injecting specially engineered neural cells into brains and spinal cords could rejuvenate damaged tissue, paving the way for more preclinical studies and, ultimately, human testing of a treatment that may stall progression of ALS.