Heart Institute

Basic Science Research

Going to the Source of Heart Disease

The Heart Institute has the nation’s only basic science division focused solely on problems related to pediatric heart disease. Basic and discovery research is carried out within the institute’s Division of Molecular Cardiovascular Biology. The division’s faculty of PhDs, MDs and MD / PhDs focus on understanding the molecular mechanisms that drive normal and abnormal heart and muscle development and function.

Our basic research is known nationally and internationally with faculty members serving on many national advisory, editorial and review boards. Research funding includes four major program grants and 28 individual grants from the National Institutes of Health. Additionally, our work is funded by many other national and international sources, including substantial grants from:

Faculty members are actively involved in training future clinical and basic researchers. Our laboratories offer MD and PhD fellows a rich research experience that is often translated directly into the clinic. Our fellows’ and students’ efforts have been recognized nationally; our current group of fellows and students have successfully applied for and been awarded 14 individual grants to support their basic and translational research efforts.

The Division also offers the fellow a pathway to independence as the senior fellows can apply to various agencies that offer transition-to-independence grants. We support these efforts, offering assurance to the funding agency that faculty status will be awarded before funding begins, should the application be successful. Almost 20 of our (former) fellows have used this pathway, which invariably leads to multiple job offers at other universities, medical schools or research institutes, giving them the opportunity to jump start their own independent labs.

Our wide-ranging basic research is directed toward critical problems in pediatric cardiology:

  • Normal and abnormal heart development and function
  • Cell signaling
  • Human cardiovascular genetics
  • Heart failure
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Congenital heart disease
  • Adult congenital heart disease
  • Valve disease

Faculty Conducting Basic Science Research in the Heart Institute

Faculty Focus of Research
James Gulick, MS Contractile protein structure function
Zaza Khuchua, PhD Cardiac lipid and phospholipid metabolism
Douglas Millay, PhD Muscle development; cell fusion; muscular dystrophy
Jeff Molkentin, PhD Cardiac signaling and transcriptional mechanisms in disease
Jeffrey Robbins, PhD The laboratory uses genetically engineered models of human heart disease to establish cause and effect relationships
Joshua Waxman, PhD Genetic mechanisms of normal and abnormal heart development
Katherine Yutzey, PhD Molecular regulation of heart development and disease
Scientists conducting basic science research in the Heart Institute.