The pump function of the heart is carried by cardiomyocytes (heart muscle cells). Loss of myocardium during a heart attack and myocardial defects in cases of congenital heart disease are not adequately replaced by cardiomyocyte proliferation, which can lead to heart failure. The long-term objective of our research is to provide novel approaches and molecular targets for the treatment of heart failure, primarily by studying the mechanisms of growth and regeneration of the myocardium. Our lab has demonstrated that administration of two naturally occurring peptides, periostin and neuregulin, can stimulate cardiomyocytes to proliferate and, in animals, restore myocardial defects and cardiac function.
We are interested in understanding the mechanisms of cardiomyocyte proliferation, with special focus on addressing several important biological questions: How do cardiomyocytes enter proliferative quiescence after differentiation? Are some differentiated cardiomyocytes capable of re-entering the cell cycle? If cell cycle reentry is possible, how can this process be controlled? The answers to these questions may lead to the first cure for heart failure.