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The Warsaw Voice » Other » June 17, 2009
MEDICINE
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Successful Surgery
June 17, 2009   
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Maciej Banach, a researcher at the Medical University of £ód¼, is working to reduce the number of post-surgical complications in patients undergoing heart operations.

"One of the most frequent complications after cardiac surgery is atrial fibrillation," says Banach, who heads the university's Department of Molecular Basis for Cardio-Nephrology and Hypertension. Atrial fibrillation, or abnormal heart rhythm involving the two upper chambers of the heart, worsens the patient's chances of survival and considerably increases the costs of hospitalization, Banach says.

Banach is working to determine a risk factor scale called AF (Atrial Fibrillation) Score. It would be used to quickly assess a patient's condition before surgery and provide appropriate management in the event of increased risk.

Banach is carrying out a research project, called CODACS, to assess "predictors of consciousness disorders" in patients after open-heart operations. He wants to determine the influence of immunological factors on ischemia and reperfusion injury, which occurs as a result of restricted blood supply during surgery followed by the restoration of the blood flow.

Banach has taken part in several research projects aimed at developing new drugs. The latest project involved research into a drug to treat post-operative atrial fibrillation. Its working name is RSD1235 (dronedarone).

Banach says he mainly deals with applied research. His research findings can potentially be put into clinical practice as soon as the projects are completed. However, this is not always the case because huge funds are needed for clinical trials, Banach says. At least four phases of research are usually needed to provide scientific and legal grounds for a drug to be approved for use in patients.

"For a few years I conducted research on L-arginine and on modifying cardioplegic and reperfusion solutions together with Dr. Piotr Okoñski, who headed the project," Banach says. The aim was to optimize the composition of solutions used during open-heart operations. The solutions are designed to give maximum protection to the heart muscle. The researchers obtained important findings and published several articles on this subject. But nothing more can be done in this area until the problem attracts the interest of a business partner capable of conducting large-scale trials to confirm the findings, Banach says.

Research on statins is an important part of Banach's work. Statins are inhibitors of an enzyme called 3-hydroxy-3-methyl-glutaryl-CoA reductase. They lower cholesterol levels in the patient's blood.

"I want to show that the use of statins lowers resistance to aspirin," Banach says. "This is a very serious problem in patients with ischemic heart disease. I am also going to verify reports about the role of statins in the treatment of isolated hypertension and supraventricular arrhythmia."

While still in college, Banach dreamed of creating a new medical discipline called cardioimmunology. Today, one can say that this discipline has already emerged because there are many scientists who conduct immunological research associated with heart diseases. Banach says he wants to make a contribution to research in this field.

Banach has written and co-authored more than 200 scientific publications and eight books on cardiology, cardiac surgery, experimental medicine, clinical immunology, and health care management. He is the editor-in-chief of Archives of Medical Science; managing editor of Central European Journal of Medicine and Clinical and Experimental Medical Letters; deputy editor-in-chief of Thyroid Research; an editor at The Open Atherosclerosis & Thrombosis Journal; and a member of the scientific boards of publications including Angiology, Journal of Atrial Fibrillation, Geriatria Polska, Folia Hepatologica and Orvosi Hetilap.

He is also a member of the Working Group on Computers in Cardiology (WG15) and the Working Group on Cardiovascular Surgery (WG25) of the European Society of Cardiology; and a member of several Polish and international scientific associations for cardiologists. He worked at the 1st Department of Cardiology and Cardiac Surgery of the Medical University of £ód¼ for five years and is now head of the university's Department of Molecular Basis for Cardio-Nephrology and Hypertension.

Over the years, Banach has won a number of professional awards and grants, including a grant from the Foundation for Polish Science (2008), the Travel Grant from the Heart Failure Association (2005 and 2007), and a grant from the European Society of Hypertension (2007).

He is a fellow of the European Society of Cardiology; a fellow of the American Society of Angiology; and a fellow of the Society of Geriatric Cardiology.

Piotr Bartosz
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