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Getting to the Heart of Research

July 29, 2019

Why it is so important to support the life-saving work being done at Versiti Blood Research Institute

If you’ve ever been prescribed medication, had surgery or simply took over-the-counter painkillers to dull a headache, you have research to thank. Research is at the center of the medical field and touches all aspects, from drugs like penicillin to procedures like cardiac surgery. It is through research that investigators may better understand how things work and develop new treatments for patients with a variety of conditions.

“Everything we do comes from research, when you get right down to it,” said (Emeritus) Gilbert C. White, II, MD, executive vice president for research at Versiti Blood Research Institute (BRI). For Versiti, that means finding better ways to administer blood transfusions, developing new ways to treat blood cancers, and discovering alternate treatments for patients with blood disorders like hemophilia and von Willebrand disease. “The fundamental importance of research in anything, whether it’s medicine or automobiles, is that it enables you to move forward,” Dr. White said.

While automobiles can literally move people to their destinations more quickly, medical research is a slower process. It takes time, effort and a community of researchers to bridge the gap between basic research and the development of therapeutics. Without the foundational building blocks of research, it is impossible to add new bricks and create a sound structure. “It takes a community to do research,” Dr. White said. This critical mass—a centralized group of experts working and innovating together—makes Versiti Blood Research Institute unique. Respected scientists from around the world establish their labs at the BRI, and are able to work collaboratively with experts in a variety of fields. These investigators readily share their work with their peers, which helps to advance research. “We publish what we find, and it becomes mutually beneficial,” Dr. White said. “It makes discoveries move faster.”

If research is at the core of the medical field, it is at the heart of Versiti Blood Research Institute. “Research is important for Versiti because there are advances that we make that impact the people we serve,” Dr. White said. “Equally important is that research provides an environment of discovery where everybody tries to think of a better way to do something, whether that’s processing blood or treating cancer.”

Without a progressive environment of discovery, research facilities become stagnant. In order to make new strides and better serve patients in our communities, it is imperative that we support the life-saving work being done by investigators at Versiti Blood Research Institute. Each discovery, no matter how big or small, is key to furthering the field of blood health. “Everybody hears about the breakthroughs, but even breakthroughs come from a fundamental body of knowledge,” Dr. White said.

In fact, Versiti Blood Research Institute investigators have contributed significant breakthroughs to the field of blood research: Senior Investigator Richard Aster, MD, is one of the longest-funded investigators by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and was involved in the first bone marrow transplant from an unrelated donor. Senior Investigator Alan Mast, MD, PhD, studies tissue factor pathway inhibitor and how it contributes to the coagulation process. Dr. Mast was also recently awarded a multimillion-dollar contract from the NIH to study the collection and production of blood products and how to optimize their use to obtain the best outcomes in patients who receive blood transfusions. And Senior Investigator Bonnie Dittel, PhD, recently discovered an immune cell subset that helps to dampen autoimmune attacks.

Every day, investigators at the BRI are making great strides in the field of blood health. To continue their life-saving research, they rely on the generosity of institutional grants like those from the NIH, as well as support from the community. To support Versiti Blood Research Institute investigators and help save lives in our communities, make a financial gift today.

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Versiti Blood Research Institute investigators study blood disorders like hemophilia, blood cancers like leukemia, and other blood diseases.