Scientists in this area focus on understanding how the heart, lung, and blood vessels are formed in the embryo and how this process goes awry to cause congenital heart defects in infants as well as some forms of cardiovascular disease in adults.
Developmental biologists study how myocyte (muscle cell) precursors migrate to form the early heart, how these primitive cells differentiate and assemble into functioning heart muscle, how the conduction system that governs heart rhythm develops, and how blood vessels form and remodel in the embryo. They work with physicians interested in congenital heart disease, arrhythmias, myocyte regeneration, and new blood vessel formation. Already, a number of genes that orchestrate heart formation in mouse embryos and other model systems have been identified, and mutations in the corresponding genes in humans have been associated with congenital heart disease. Close collaborations with investigators in the nearby Gladstone Institutes are in place. This UCSF community is already among the most robust in existence in the area of cardiovascular development.