Current Highlights

Basic, translational and clinical research programs in cardiovascular medicine by department faculty are broadly focused upon normal and pathologic processes involving the heart and vasculature. Extramural funding by full-time faculty is derived from the National Institutes of Health, American Heart Association, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and industry.

The department has been the recipient since 1995 of a National Institutes of Health-sponsored Specialized Center of Research (SCOR) grant in heart failure.

Major basic cardiovascular research interests in the department include vascular lipid metabolism; oxidative stress and inflammation in vascular disease, G protein, protein kinase signaling and myocardial apoptosis in cardiac hypertrophy and heart failure.

A multimillion dollar institutional initiative for identifying and characterizing human polymorphic genetic determinants of heart failure began in 2000 that involves investigators from the UC Department of Internal Medicine as well as other departments in the College of Medicine.

In addition to its basic research programs, the Division of Cardiovascular Diseases has active clinical trials programs in the areas of coronary artery disease, electrophysiology, heart failure, interventional cardiology and cardiac computerized tomography.

Clinical trials in the area of imaging include radiotracer imaging of cardiac sympathetic innervation, Single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) imaging of fatty acid tracers and validation of coronary CT angiography.

The division is also actively involved in novel therapies for coronary angiogenesis, including the cardiac application of adult autologous stem cells.

  • Finding that capsaicin (an over-the-counter pain salve) rubbed on the skin during a heart attack can actually help reduce damage to the heart
  • Finding that administering artificial “bubbles” (called liposomes) in combination with clot-busting drugs— via ultrasound technology — can better promote drug delivery to clogged arteries
  • Studying how a specific enzyme (HDAC9) could lead to new treatments for obesity
  • Identifying a protective gene  (HAX1) and studying how it could lead to targeted treatments for patients with heart failure
  • Identifying a stress protein (Hsp20) that may constitute novel therapy to increase contractility and protect the failing heart
  • Identifying human genetic mutations that predispose to sudden death or alter the progression of heart failure (prognostic or diagnostic markers)
  • Leading towards personalized medicine based on our genetic make-up
  • Studying how a potential genetic target for heart disease (miR-765) could lead to therapies to prevent the development of cardiovascular disease
  • Determining how emergency medical technicians can reduce the time it takes for heart attack patients to be treated for clogged arteries
  • Studying how an enzyme found in blood-sucking insects could be used to coat cardiovascular stents and other medical devices to prevent narrowing, inflammation and blood clotting
  • Determining the function of a calcium channel newly discovered to be in the heart, and repurposing of an old drug that targets this channel for heart disease.