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A Valentine's Day Playlist: Straight from the Heart



Valentine's Day? Oh, my Achy Breaky Heart! What to get for the valentine who has everything? Not another expensive Ramblin' Rose. Definitely not calorie-laden Candy, Man.

Don't worry, distraught lover! We've got a suggestion: Turn down the lights. Turn up the music. Turn on... the discussion.

Yes! What could be more romantic than a serious chat about heart-related research? We've even put together the playlist for you: Heart-themed songs that'll let you and your heartthrob segue right into the cardiac facts straight from Johns Hopkins. Hot stuff.

Here you go. And you're welcome. Just let us know how it turns out...

Cheryl Dennison
Cheryl R. Dennison

Take Good Care of My Heart (Whitney Houston featuring Jermaine Jackson, 1984)

Knowledge is power for the one in three American adults living with cardiovascular disease -- more than 5.7 million of them with heart failure, according to cardiovascular nursing expert Cheryl R. Dennison, an associate professor in the School of Nursing. The challenge, she says, has been in assuring that people with heart and vascular diseases both understand and take the steps necessary to live with these chronic illnesses, including understanding their symptoms and using their medications properly. Healthcare professionals also need to help patients make appropriate changes in diet, exercise, and tobacco and alcohol use. Dennison's latest research explores ways in which gaps in heart patient knowledge and self-care ability can be bridged.

Read more about Cheryl Dennison's research.

Read more about Cheryl Dennison's work to bring researchers and minority communities together to fight heart disease


Sharon Gerecht
Sharon Gerecht

How Can You Mend a Broken Heart? (The Bee Gees, 1971)

Scar tissue that forms after a heart attack can impair the pump's functioning. To help such hearts regain their strength, Sharon Gerecht, an assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, is coaxing stem cells to form tiny networks of cardiac blood vessels in the lab. Although testing in human patients has not yet begun, the goal is to someday transplant these "patches" onto damaged hearts to enhance the healing process.

Visit the Gerecht Lab's website.

Read about Sharon Gerecht's research that seeks to turn human stem cells into blood vessels


Andre Levchenko
Andrew Levchenko

Groove is in the Heart (Deee-Lite, 1990)

Working with colleagues in Korea, Andre Levchenko, an associate professor of biomedical engineering, has produced a laboratory chip with nanoscopic grooves and ridges capable of growing cardiac tissue that resembles natural heart muscle. Heart cells cultured in this way used a "nanosense" to collect instructions for growth and function, solely from the physical patterns on the nanotextured chip. Moreover, these cells do not require any special chemical cues to steer the tissue development in distinct ways.

Read more about the laboratory chip produced by Andre Levchenko

Read about Andre Levchenko's diabetes treatment research

Kerry Stewart
Dr. Kerry Stewart

Hungry Heart (Bruce Springsteen, 1980)

Everyone knows that a healthy diet and adequate exercise are effective weapons in the battle against obesity and type 2 diabetes. But do such regimens have the same positive impact on our cardiovascular system? People assume so and scientists suppose so, but -- perhaps surprisingly -- they don't know for certain. Kerry Stewart, professor and director of clinical and research exercise physiology at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, is investigating whether the cardiovascular health of people with diabetes or are at risk of developing it because they are overweight and sedentary improves after they adopt a healthy diet and exercise regimen.

Learn more about Kerry Stewart.


Natalia Trayanova
Natalia Trayanova

Every Beat of My Heart (Rod Stewart, 1986)

Romantic love may cause the heart to flutter, but when one's heartbeat slips into a persistent irregular pattern called an arrhythmia, the condition can be life-threatening. Natalia Trayanova, a professor of biomedical engineering, is using computer models of the heart to find out what causes these dangerous beats, and she is looking for ways to restore the heart to a healthy rhythm. She also is working on defibrillator settings that can correct an arrhythmia using a lower voltage jolt, causing less trauma to the heart.

Visit Natalia Trayanova's website.

Read about Natalia Trayanova's recognition as the first Brody Scholar


Myron Weisfeldt
Dr. Myron Weisfeldt

My Heart Will Go On (Celine Dion, 1997)

A study of more than 14,000 men and women whose hearts stopped suddenly suggests that the chances of survival are very high if such cardiac arrests are witnessed in large public venues, including airports, sports arenas or malls. The reasons, researchers say, are that almost four out of five such cases appear to be due to a survivable type of heart rhythm disruption and that big places with lots of people are more likely to have an automated external defibrillator, or AED device, handy, along with those who can apply it as well as CPR. The study, published Jan. 27 in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that 79 percent of such victims had the kind of disrupted heart rhythm that could be corrected by an electrical shock from an AED device used by a bystander.

Read more about surviving cardiac arrest.


Raimond Winslow
Raimond Winslow

Heartaches by the Number (Guy Mitchell, 1959)

At the Johns Hopkins Institute for Computational Medicine (ICM), engineers are using powerful computers to come up with new ways to diagnose and treat cardiac disease. The ICM is the home of the CardioVascular Research Grid Project. This project is creating databases and software for storage, analysis and sharing of information on heart-related illnesses. It allows collaborating research teams from distant locations to share vast amounts of data on diverse cardiovascular diseases. This, in turn, is helping researchers develop better methods for the early detection and treatment. The CVRG Project, directed by Raimond Winslow, the Raj and Neera Singh Professor of Biomedical Engineering and director of the ICM, is funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

Visit the Cardiovascular Research Grid website.

Read more about Raimond Winslow's research grid


Ilan Wittstein
Dr. Ilan Wittstein

What Becomes of the Broken Hearted (Jimmy Ruffin, 1966)

Shocking news, such as learning of the unexpected death of a loved one, has been known to cause catastrophic events, such as a heart attack. Back in 2005, researchers at Johns Hopkins discovered that sudden emotional stress can also result in severe but reversible heart muscle weakness that mimics a classic heart attack. Patients with this condition, called stress cardiomyopathy but known colloquially as "broken heart syndrome," are often misdiagnosed with a massive heart attack when, indeed, they have suffered from a days-long surge in adrenalin (epinephrine) and other stress hormones that temporarily "stun" the heart. Dr. Ilan Wittstein, an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, was the lead author on the study.

Read more about Dr. Ilan Wittstein's research.


Laurent Younes
Laurent Younes

The Shape of My Heart (Sting, 1993)

Can the shape of a person's heart provide clues to cardiac trouble? Laurent Younes, a professor of applied mathematics and statistics, believes it can. He leads a team that is studying MRI and CT scan images of patients' hearts, looking for shape differences that may be linked to particular ailments. The researchers have already used this technique to distinguish left ventricle shape differences between patients who have two different forms of cardiomyopathy, a disease that interferes with the heart's ability to pump blood with sufficient force. Younes' goal is to give doctors new noninvasive tools to help diagnose and treat heart problems.

Visit Laurent Younes' research website.


Andrew Cherlin
Andrew Cherlin

Two Hearts Beat As One (U2, 1983)

Parents who are in new relationships need to keep track of more than just two hearts: After a divorce or break-up, moms and dads need to be very cautious about bringing new love interests into their homes, according to Andrew Cherlin, a professor in the Department of Sociology at Johns Hopkins University. In his book, The Marriage-Go-Round: The State of Marriage and the Family in America Today (April 2009, Alfred A. Knopf), Cherlin writes that any transition that brings a new partner or stepparent into the home can be difficult for children to cope with. Frequent marriage, frequent divorce, and an increase in short-term cohabitating relationships are creating a great turbulence in American family life on a scale seen nowhere else, he said, and more thought should be given to the children caught up in the changes their parents make in the quest for personally satisfying romantic relationships.

Read more about Andrew Cherlin's latest publication on marriage in America.




Images used in illustration courtesy Institute of Computational Medicine, Computational Cardiac Electrophysiology Lab, D. Sharon Pruitt, Jek Bacarisas