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Cardiovascular Disease

Cardiovascular disease—including heart attacks, congenital heart defects, and many other disorders—is the world’s leading cause of death. Heart failure alone afflicts more than 23 million people around the world.

Regenerating Hearts at Gladstone

For over three decades, Gladstone has worked to overcome cardiovascular disease, and our scientists have made significant progress against this devastating illness. We’ve conducted research on the metabolism of cholesterol, contributing to today’s understanding of how cholesterol and heart disease are linked, and how to use that information to prevent adult heart disease. We also mapped molecules that direct the development of fetal hearts—unraveling how nature tells a cell to become a heart cell. Finding these molecules has profoundly changed our understanding of congenital heart defects, leading to our discovery of genetic causes of heart disease and paving the way toward preventing these conditions in the future.

Shinya Yamanaka

Over the past several years, much of our work has expanded on the discovery by Shinya Yamanaka, MD, PhD, a Gladstone Senior Investigator. Dr. Yamanaka’s discovery—how to transform ordinary adult skin cells into stem cells that, like embryonic stem cells, can develop into any cell in the human body. With this discovery, Dr. Yamanaka earned the Nobel prize and fundamentally changed the fields of developmental biology and stem cell research.  This technology produces induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPS cells, that offer amazing promise for the future of modeling disease, discovering and testing new therapies in the laboratory, and ultimately repairing damaged hearts.  For example, we can run drug tests on heart cells created from a patient’s own skin cells, which contain a complete set of the genes that caused the disease. Our scientists have already transformed skin cells into beating heart cells in a Petri dish and have converted non-muscle cells directly into new muscle to repair damage in the hearts of living animals.  We are working to transform this game-changing research into therapies that help doctors repair hearts damaged by heart attacks and disease.

Importantly, we also train tomorrow’s cardiovascular physicians and researchers. Our faculty are professors at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), where they train our inquisitive, passionate, and enthusiastic graduate students, medical students, and postdoctoral fellows—showing them how to approach complex problems from multiple angles. To learn more about training at Gladstone, please visit the Training Programs section of our website.