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Cardiovascular diseases, such as heart failure, cardiac arrhythmias, congenital heart disorders, and vascular diseases, are the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in adults and children throughout the world. The overall goals of our research program are to gain insights into the molecular mechanisms of these cardiovascular diseases as well as discover developmental pathways that help create the cardiovascular system. We are most interested in translating these findings for eventual cardiac therapies and early diagnostic tools, including cardiac regenerative cellular repair, gene therapies, and genetic/genomic testing. Towards this end, our laboratory uses a combination of human cardiovascular patients and their samples derived from our UCSD Sulpizio Cardiovascular Center as well as various model organisms, such as zebrafish, newts, and mice, for our investigations. Some of our current areas of research interest include:

  1. Studying the unique capacity of the heart and vasculature of lower vertebrates, such as zebrafish, to regenerate after cardiovascular injury.
  2. Investigating the signaling cues and transcriptional/epigenetic network responsible for the specification/development of the cardiovascular system (i.e. differentiation of cardiovascular progenitors into specific cardiac and vascular cell types).
  3. Utilizing these discovered cardiovascular developmental signaling and transcriptional/epigenetic networks as well as cardiac regeneration studies to generate human cardiac stem cells and functional cardiomyocytes for cardiac and vascular regenerative repairs.
  4. Studying the underlying cellular, molecular, and physiologic mechanisms whereby both genetic and biophysical factors synergistically regulate cardiac morphogenesis.
  5. Discover novel cardiovascular disease-causing genetic variants (whole exomic/genomic sequencing) and gain insights into the molecular basis for their ability to cause cardiovascular diseases.
  6. Developing human iPSC cardiovascular disease models from patient derived skin fibroblasts collected from heart failure and cardiac arrhythmia patients.
  7. Investigating the role of RNA regulation during cardiac development and disease.
  8. Understanding how autophagy mediated pathways regulate cardiac and vascular homeostasis and function.

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