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Grant Awarded for Critical Heart Research

Riley kid Carlie Evans

Earlier this year, researchers at the Indiana University School of Medicine received a $200,000 grant from the Department of Defense to study coarctation of the aorta, a common congenital heart defect.

The aorta is the largest artery in the human body and carries blood away from the heart to the rest of the body. Coarctation, or narrowing, of the aorta obstructs blood flow to vital organs. This defect is life-threatening and requires immediate surgery. Benjamin Landis, M.D., and Yunlong Liu, PhD, are leading the research project, which is the first of its kind to perform single-cell RNA sequencing in patients with coarctation of the aorta. They hope that their research could lead to less invasive treatment options and earlier intervention.

This research brings hope to kids like Carlie Evans. When Carlie was born, she weighed 1 pound, 4 ounces. Not only was she battling all of the challenges of a micro-preemie, Carlie was diagnosed with a critical heart defect – coarctation of the aorta.

Physicians at the hospital where she was born struggled to help her grow big enough for surgery. They told her parents there was nothing else they could do. With the help of social media, Carlie’s family grabbed the attention of the cardiology team at Riley Children’s Health. In the span of a few days, baby Carlie arrived at Riley Children’s with a strategy in place to save her life.

Riley Children’s Heart Surgeon Mark Turrentine, M.D., was confident in his ability to help Carlie, whose heart was only about the size of a strawberry. Surgery was a success, and today Carlie is a joyful 4-year-old who loves dancing and going to preschool. “Tiny hearts are like little gardens,” shared Carlie’s mom, Carrie Hyatt, as she reflected on her gratitude for the researchers and donors who are invested in a healthy future for her daughter. “You have to feed them positivity and love to see them grow strong.”