The Seaweed Canyon Comparative Cardiovascular Physiology Laboratory (hereinafter referred to as "The Laboratory") was established in 1965 as a joint enterprise of the Institute for Cardiopulmonary Diseases of Scripps Clinic and Research Foundation (SCRF) and the Physiology Research Laboratory, Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO). The Laboratory's initial overarching aim was to gain, in both marine and land-based animals, an improved understanding of cardiovascular physiologic function in the awake, unanesthetized state, using then novel chronically implanted instruments, e.g., micromanometers, ultrasound crystals, ascending aortic flow meters. Many of the technical advances underlying these instruments were developed by Mr. Dean Franklin, in collaboration with Dr. Robert Van Citters, before coming to SCRF, and while working under Dr. Robert Rushmer at the University of Washington. The Laboratory was located initially in La Jolla, California, on the University of California (UC), SIO property, and approximate to an area where researchers disposed of seaweed caught while fishing. The facility thus became known at SIO and on the UC San Diego campus as "The Seaweed Canyon Laboratory."
Following the establishment of the UC San Diego School of Medicine (SOM), experiments at the Laboratory were performed under the aegis of Eugene Braunwald, MD, the Founding Chair of the Department of Medicine. Studies during his tenure, executed in collaboration with Mr. Franklin, explored cardiovascular physiologic control mechanisms and drug effects in conscious dogs as revealed by telemetered signals from chronically implanted instruments. After Dr. Braunwald's departure from UC San Diego in 1972, the Laboratory became the primary research facility for John Ross, Jr., MD, the first Chief of the Division of Cardiology in the SOM. While directing the Laboratory, Dr. Ross focused primarily on the pathophysiology of myocardial ischemia. Particularly notable were his experiments demonstrating that coronary artery reperfusion after prolonged coronary occlusion can salvage myocardium and result in partial, late recovery of myocardial contraction. Dr. Ross also described the setting of "perfusion-contraction matching" in the ischemic myocardium. He showed experimentally that induced development of regional ischemia (by exercise, pacing, and pharmacologic stimulation), in the presence of a narrowed coronary artery, causes regional myocardial contractile dysfunction and can be used to identify the degree of ischemia during and after stress that increases myocardial oxygen consumption (a technique now widely used in man).
Dr. Ross attracted talented researcher fellows from both national and international sources. He trained physiologists and physicians from the USA (Kim Gallagher, Brian Guth, Howard Rockman, and others), from Europe (Bertrand Crozatier, Otto Hess, Gerd Heusch, Ciro Indolfi, Rainer Schulz, Eric Thaulow and others) and from Asia (Shigetake Sasayama, Masunori Matsuzaki, Shunichi Miyazaki, Byung-Hee Oh and others). Their fellowship time at the Seaweed Laboratory led to highly successful careers in academic medicine and the pharmaceutical industry in the United States, Japan, and Western Europe.
In the early 1980s, foreseeing the emerging importance of molecular biology in exploring human disease, Dr. Ross established the section of Molecular Cardiology within his Division and began investigating the molecular basis of cardiac disease. He conducted some of the first studies using viral vectors for gene transfer and also stimulated the development of further miniaturized techniques for hemodynamic assessment of transgenic mice.
Also, in the early 1980s, Dr. Kirk Peterson, then Chief of Clinical Cardiology at the UCSD Medical Center, began to execute experimental studies on mitral regurgitation. He also brought to the Laboratory his interest in digital processing of hemodynamic, ultrasonic, and angiographic data. The latter was acquired in a refurbished angiographic facility donated to Dr. Peterson, and his collaborators by General Electric, Inc. In 1988, Dr. Peterson assumed the position of Associate Director of the Laboratory.
Following Dr. John Ross' retirement in 2005, Dr. Peterson assumed primary leadership of the Laboratory and expanded its role as a cardiovascular physiology core facility. With the Laboratory serving as a Core unit, a major 5-year N.I.H. Program Project Grant on molecular pathways for cardiac hypertrophy and cardiomyopathy was awarded to the Cardiology Division of the Department of Medicine. Collaborative studies were also undertaken with other biomedical research institutions on the La Jolla Mesa, including the Salk Institute, Scripps Research Institute, and Sanford-Burnham Biomedical Research Institute. In most instances, the Laboratory carried out physiologic studies aimed at characterizing a cardiovascular physiologic phenotype associated with an induced genomic mutation. Others were directed at describing the potential mitigating effects of new therapeutic interventions on models of human disease, e.g., the ischemic-reperfusion injury seen with acute myocardial infarction. The development of new approaches, using 3D reconstructed murine magnetic resonance imaging to quantitate regional myocardial ischemia, has also been a significant focus of activity over the past years.