In order to promote productive collaborations and the exchange of ideas, our labs collaborate within specific areas of focus. This conceptual framework enables us to direct multiple resources towards questions of fundamental and translational science. However, there are no rigid walls at the Cardiovascular Research Institute—we encourage building alliances and letting knowledge flow freely, wherever the spirit of scientific inquiry may lead.
Lifestyle and Disease Prevention
Over the last few decades research into cardiovascular disease and its complications has lead to the development of effective therapies and preventative measures. Many traditional risk factors that drive diseases such as hypercholesterolemia and hypertension can be controlled and managed by therapeutics, while cigarette use has declined precipitously. Despite these improvements, the incidence of cardiovascular disease has not declined and continues to rise in many parts of the world. Recent advances have uncovered a widening array of non-traditional cardiovascular risk factors. Lifestyle factors, including sleep disruption, stress, poor diet, sedentary behavior, and environmental radiation exposure have gained an increasing appreciation for their influence on cardiovascular disease. While recognition of these modifiable risk factors is growing, our understanding of how they influence disease progression at a fundamental and biological level is limited. Exploring how lifestyle and behavior alter cardiovascular pathology will uncover new and manifold mechanisms of disease.
Systems Physiology and Bioengineering
The aim of this dedicated group of labs is to study cardiovascular health in the broad context of body systems. Understanding the mechanisms of inter-organ communication and their impact on cardiovascular health requires developing inquiries that bridge multiple disciplines, including immunology, hematology, neuroscience, biochemistry, endocrinology, and vascular biology. This includes tissue and organoid engineering, genetic engineering/gene editing for disease modeling, computational modeling, and biomedical device development, which all model and/or impact cardiovascular function in a systems level context. Our work is rooted in an expansive conceptual framework intended to capture the complex biology of inter-organ communication.
Genomic technologies involving stem cells, gene transfer and RNA modification approaches not only advance our understanding of the molecular basis of the disease but also facilitate development of novel cardiovascular therapeutics. At CVRI, our fundamental approach is to modify gene expression at a single gene level (e.g. gene therapy using modified RNA, AAVs and AAVexosomes) or at the entire genome level (e.g. cell therapy using stem cells, exosomes, or engineered tissues) that results in a modified phenotype for therapeutic purposes. Moreover, we address several general challenges at the genetic level, such as investigating host immune responses and epitranscriptomic modifications that regulate expression of genes and proteins under pathological manifestations.