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Patricia W. Finn, MD. Department Chair


© Copyright 2014 The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois

Center for Cardiovascular Research (CCRV)

Director: E. Douglas Lewandowski, PhD

The CCVR supports interdisciplinary research in basic, translational and clinical cardiovascular sciences and provides an excellent environment for interactive research, better training opportunities for doctoral students, postdoctoral fellows, medical students, residents and fellows with the express goal of recruiting and training the talented leaders in cardiovascular science for the future. A new CCVR sponsored PhD program, across multiple departmental graduate degrees, enables enrollment into a specialized degree to be conferred with a focus on graduate training in cardiovascular sciences. Additionally, there are two NIH sponsored training grants supporting educational efforts of the CCRV. There are five programs in the CCRV which coordinate multiple research projects.

Program in Integrative Cardiac Metabolism

Program Director: E. Douglas Lewandowski, PhD

The Program in Integrative Cardiac Metabolism is dedicated to investigating and resolving the links between metabolic disorders in the heart and the impaired heart function that occurs with heart failure and following heart attacks. A general focus of the program addresses maladaptive expression of genes that contribute to impaired heart function under conditions such as metabolic syndrome, hypertension, diabetes, and obesity. Specific focus is dedicated to identifying metabolic defects in the heart and devising therapeutic strategies to normalize heart metabolism and restore the ability of the heart to sustain its role as a pump. Novel and state-of-the-art technical advances in our laboratories enable use of ultra-high field magnetic resonance (MR) to track and monitor the actual biochemical reactions in the heart that support the ability of heart muscle to contract. Visualization of these biochemical reactions enables us to determine maladaptive changes in cardiac metabolism and in the manner in which the heart utilizes fats and carbohydrate to support its constant pumping activity. We combine these state-of-the-art techniques for examining heart metabolism and function with both pharmacological and gene-therapy based treatment regimens that are designed to repair metabolic disturbances in the diseased heart and improve or normalize cardiac performance.

Program in Sarcomere Proteomics and Cardiac Dynamics

Program Director: R. John Solaro, PhD

The primary goal of the Sarcomere Proteomics and Cardiac Dynamics laboratories is to understand the fundamental mechanisms responsible for switching the molecular motors of heart muscle cells on and off and for controlling their rates and intensity of activity. These motors are housed in structures called sarcomeres that contain myofilaments responsible for the force development and shortening of heart muscle that is responsible for ejection of blood. This fundamental understanding requires detailed knowledge of the sarcomeric proteins, which we investigate employing the tools of modern proteomics. Sarcomeres also contain a network of proteins that sense mechanical and chemical signals and transduce these signals in the control of dynamics and growth of the sarcomeres. Our experiments address the following questions: What events signal switch function and how is the switch modified by myofilament structure, chemistry, mechanical state in healthy and disordered hearts? How do the myofilaments and proteins of the sarcomeres grow and assemble in response to changing demands for blood flow in health and disease? We approach these questions at the level of the organ and organism by integrating information derived from techniques using the disciplines of biophysics, biochemistry as well as molecular, structural and cellular biology. A significant goal is to translate these studies to improved understanding of acquired and inherited heart failure, especially the linkage of sudden death in the young to mutations in sarcomeric proteins. An important endpoint and success of our approaches has been the development of new drugs for use in the treatment of heart failure.

Program in Pulmonary Vascular Disease and Right Heart Function

Program Director: Jason X.-J. Yuan, MD, PhD

The Program in Pulmonary Vascular Disease and Right Heart Function is devoted to the basic, translational and clinical studies of pulmonary hypertension, pulmonary embolism, and right heart failure due to pulmonary vascular disease. Multidisciplinary areas of investigation include the pathogenic and therapeutic mechanisms of idiopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension (IPAH) and chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension, as well as research on pulmonary hypertension associated with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), sickle cell disease, liver diseases (cirrhosis and portal hypertension), scleroderma, sarcoidosis, congenital heart diseases, HIV/AIDS, and Schistosomiasis. Ongoing projects cover a wide spectrum, for example, genetic studies on polymorphisms and candidate genes related to pulmonary hypertension (using GWAS, SNP analysis, cDNA/microRNA microarray and proteomics), cellular and molecular biological studies on cell signaling and transcriptional regulation (using tissues and cells isolated from experimental models and clinical patients with pulmonary hypertension), electrophysiological and pharmacological studies on ion channels and transporters in pulmonary vascular smooth muscle and endothelial cells, and clinical trials on novel drugs for patients with pulmonary hypertension associated with various cardiopulmonary diseases and chronic hemolytic anemia.

Program in Cardiovascular Resuscitation

Program Director: Terry Vanden Hoek, MD

The Program in Cardiovascular Resuscitation is dedicated to investigating and resolving impaired heart function following conditions of sudden clinical shock, as seen after cardiac arrest and severe hemorrhagic traumatic shock. These are leading causes of death in the elderly and young adults, and many patients die within hours after resuscitation (e.g. with CPR or blood transfusion) due to severe cardiovascular dysfunction of unclear etiology. This lethal dysfunction may result from profound changes in heart metabolism and ion channels, sarcomere protein interactions, pulmonary vascular resistance, and systemic microvascular endothelial integrity. Specific focus is dedicated to identifying therapeutic strategies that affect time-sensitive changes seen in oxidant stress and inflammation, and determine heart function, resuscitation success and survival. Promising strategies include the use of nitric oxide or other gasses to inhibit mitochondrial oxidant generation, and blocking early identified initiators of innate immune response. We combine complementary in vivo and in vitro models of resuscitation that allow for both pharmacologic and genetic approaches of inquiry. Online measurements of cardiomyocyte and heart function are linked to indicators of oxidant stress, mitochondrial function, and the induction of inflammatory responses as measured by protein, message and micro-RNA alterations. We combine imaging and molecular techniques to uniquely examine and treat the heart dysfunction seen within a body exposed to sudden shock and resuscitation.