You are here

Areas of Investigation

At Gladstone, we attack the whole spectrum of cardiovascular disease, from congenital heart disease that children are born with to acquired, adult conditions, such as congestive heart failure. Our weapons against these illnesses include developmental, chemical, and stem cell biology, as well as genomics. By combining these approaches with studies of obesity, we have created a rich and fertile environment for advancing human health.

Our scientists are unraveling every biological step in the embryonic development of a human heart to learn which genes, RNAs, or proteins we can target to prevent or treat congenital heart disease. We are also working to show how changes in the structure of chromosomes affect heart development, and to determine how immune cells contribute to the build-up of plaque in arteries. We are improving how we reprogram human skin cells into heart cells, and are investigating the most rapidly evolving areas of the human genome to better understand human disease and evolution.

Many areas of our research build on the pioneering stem cell work of Gladstone Senior Investigator Shinya Yamanaka, MD, PhD. After completing his postdoctoral training at Gladstone, Dr. Yamanaka discovered an innovative technology that transforms ordinary adult skin cells into stem cells that, like embryonic stem cells, can develop into virtually any cell type in the human body. His discovery of induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPS cells, has since revolutionized the fields of developmental biology and stem-cell research, opening promising new avenues for the future of both personalized and regenerative medicine.

While Dr. Yamanaka achieved his iPS breakthrough by introducing four factors into adult cells, we’re now working on new ways to transform adult cells into stem cells—such as with chemical compounds. Also, rather than using such compounds to reprogram cells all the way back to the pluripotent state, we are also working on more direct ways to change one type of cell directly into another. For example, we are reprogramming cardiac fibroblasts—the heart’s connective tissue—directly into beating cardiac-muscle cells. With these technologies, we are creating heart cells from skin samples of patients with many cardiovascular diseases, such as heart failure, to test the safety and efficacy of new or existing drugs that treat or prevent the condition.