Malformation of the cardiovascular system is the most common form of human birth defect and cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of mortality. However, the molecular mechanisms that cause these heart diseases remain poorly understood.
The long-term goal of my laboratory is to advance our understanding of the transcriptional controls that guide cardiovascular differentiation / development and maintenance of normal cardiac function. The focus of our current research is to identify novel cellular and molecular mechanisms that lead to normal cardiac morphogenesis and function. For this, we are investigating molecular mechanisms that regulate cardiac-specific gene expression in vitro and role of transcription factors in cardiovascular development in vivo by generating transgenic mice. For example, we are studying molecular functions of the cardiac-restricted homeobox protein Nkx2.5, zinc finger protein GATA4, muscle-specific factor MEF2, and the nuclear factor Jumonji in regulating target genes and guiding normal cardiovascular development.
Embryonic stem cells are pluripotent cells. One goal of stem cell research is the development of specialized cells such as heart muscle cells. The directed differentiation of embryonic stem cells is then vital to the ultimate use of such cells in the development of new therapies. We are currently developing methods to isolate and enrich embryonic stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes.