Explore Research Innovation at UCLA Health
The UCLA Cardiovascular Research Theme is a David Geffen School of Medicine initiative that aims to facilitate and integrate campus wide research in cardiovascular biology. The theme encourages research across a broad platform of key cardiovascular issues including basic cardiovascular biology, clinical trials, big data and understanding key issues regulating equity and disparity of cardiac health care. Faculty, staff and trainees in the cardiovascular theme belong to diverse departments and schools (medicine, life sciences, engineering) and bring together unique expertise in building team science approaches to solving big questions in cardiac biology and cardiovascular medicine. Such team science approaches are being used to address fundamental questions regarding heart failure biology and cardiac regenerative medicine, arrhythmia biology and sudden death, genetics of cardiovascular diseases, congenital heart disease, atherosclerosis, vascular biology and patient outcomes.
The Cardiovascular Theme has a foundation deeply rooted in the long and proud history of research excellence at UCLA. We encourage your feedback and inquiries as you get to know the Cardiovascular Theme and invite you to be a part of the UCLA mission to transform cardiovascular health.
Arjun Deb, MD
Professor of Medicine and Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology
Director, Cardiovascular Research Theme
“With amazing advances in genetics, stem cell biology, metabolism and imaging, we as cardiovascular scientists have an incredible opportunity to make a difference in the lives of people affected by heart disease. The UCLA Cardiovascular Research Theme will catalyze and facilitate a team science approach in making such a difference”
Marmar Vaseghi, MD, PhD Associate Professor of Medicine
Tamer Sallam, MD, PhD Associate Professor of Medicine
Jake Lusis, PhD Professor of Genetics
Karol Watson, MD, PhD Professor of Medicine
Richard Shemin, MD Professor of Surgery
Riccardo Olcese, PhD Professor of Anesthesiology and Physiology
Rene Packard, MD, PhD Assistant Professor of Medicine
Julia Mack, PhD Assistant Professor of Medicine
Olujimi Ajijola, MD, PhD Assistant Professor of Medicine
Mansoureh Eghbali, PhD Professor of Anesthesiology
Transplant immunologists trying to prevent organ rejection are fundamentally dealing with the same issues as researchers tackling autoimmune diseases: both groups hope to suppress the effects of a harmful hyperactive immune system. In a traditional medical school structure, these two sets of people rarely interact. But the DGSOM's unified research themes promotes change and provides opportunities for cross-disciplinary interactions.
Stephen Smale, PhD, the Vice Dean for Research at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, breaks down six of the unified research themes.
Dr. Smale says the topic of depression is one of the major issues they want to tackle on a campus-wide level. In fact, depression was selected as one of two grand challenges by UCLA as a widely impactful area of focus associated with the Centennial Campaign.
"It impacts such a broad range of people and extends through psychiatry, neurology, basic neurobiology and the social sciences," says Dr. Smale. Brain diseases undoubtedly present one of the the greatest challenges to medical science in the 21st century. See how the UCLA Neuroscience Research Theme is commiting themselves to meet those demands.
Stephen Smale, PhD, Vice Dean for Research, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA
Immunity, inflammation, infection and transplantation all relate to immunology. "Understanding basic microbiology is important but so is figuring out therapies and ways to attack infection," he says.
For example, the biggest challenge the organ transplant field faces is rejection. The goal is to develop improved immunosuppressant strategies or to figure out how to get transplant recipients to tolerate the transplanted organ.
Dr. Smale explains the rationale for putting the I3T disciplines together is that they are all related to immunology, and the benefits of cross-fertilization and interaction are well-established. "The great successes in cancer immunotherapy did not emerge from biologists working in isolation but rather from immunologists uncovering basic knowledge of the immune system, recognizing the potential clinical value of that knowledge, and then working with cancer researchers to translate the findings to the clinic," he says.
The knowledge that led to the cancer immunotherapy successes may, in turn, benefit efforts to develop improved immune-system-based therapies for infectious diseases.
Type 2 diabetes, obesity, cancer and aging are four active metabolism-research areas. Although scientists in some ways lost interest in metabolism during the molecular biology revolution, Dr. Smale says the field has made a comeback.
"For example, there are important metabolic differences between cancer cells and normal cells with those differences being critical for the cancer cells to survive and thrive." he says. "This led to a resurgence in the field with the thought that if most cancer cells rely on these key metabolic changes, maybe that's what we should be targeting." Learn more about the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA's metabolism research by visiting their website.
Cancer research is synonymous with the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center. The center has been remarkably successful in terms of generating a number of novel therapies, including Herceptin, the first targeted therapy for cancer. "We have great strength here, both in the development of small-molecule therapies and in cancer immunotherapy," Dr. Smale says.
Regenerative medicine is based in the Broad Stem Cell Research Center, which is a large and prominent home for regenerative medicine. It was chosen as a theme because of the clear potential to develop novel therapies, based on the ability to differentiate and modify stem cells for use in a therapeutic manner.
The David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA's cardiovascular research is broad and ambitious, with considerable strengths in the study of heart disease, heart failure, arrhythmias and a number of other areas. This is also one of the initial areas of focus for UCLA's rapidly growing precision medicine program.
"Unified research themes are a way to break down traditional departmental silos and silos between basic researchers and clinicians, which have slowed the progression of biomedical research and the development of novel therapies," says Dr. Smale. "In the end, it's all about providing a greater impact for the patient."