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Lasker Foundation awards medical prizes

NEW YORK - Two researchers who opened up the field of heart-valve replacement and a scientist who discovered a type of cell that plays a key role in the immune system have won prestigious medical prizes.

The $150,000 Albert Lasker Medical Research Awards will be presented Sept. 28 in New York by the Albert & Mary Lasker Foundation.

Dr. Albert Starr of the Providence Health System in Portland, Ore., and Dr. Alain Carpentier of the Georges Pompidou European Hospital in Paris will share the clinical research prize for developing replacement heart valves. More than 300,000 people a year worldwide get heart valves replaced, the second most common heart surgery in the United States, the foundation said.

In September 1960, Starr performed the first successful valve replacement in a human.

But people who get artificial heart valves must take blood thinners for the rest of their lives to cut their risk of blood clots. To get around that, Carpentier adapted valves from pigs. In 1965, he and a colleague did the first successful replacement of a human valve with an animal valve.

Carpentier also developed a valve repair surgery that "ushered in the modern era of valve reconstruction," the foundation said.

The prize for basic research goes to Dr. Ralph Steinman of The Rockefeller University in New York for discovering dendritic cells, which trigger defenses against germs.

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