Cardiovascular and Metabolic Diseases Graduate Program Track

Faculty and their Research Interests in Cardiovascular and Metabolic Diseases

Click on the faculty member’s name for a more in-depth description of their research and publications.


Andrew D. Beavis, Ph.D.
University of Bristol, U.K., 1977

Mitochondrial bioenergetics and transport processes.

George T. Cicila, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
University of Pennsylvania, 1986

My major interests are the inheritance of complex traits, with a focus on cardiovascular and related phenotypes.  These include blood pressure, intrinsic aerobic running capacity, cardiac performance, and obesity.  We are also studying a mutation that regulates the length of telomeres.

Jennifer W. Hill, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Northwestern University, 2003

I am interested are in the hypothalamic homeostatic mechanisms controlling body weight and fertility and the interactions between them.  My hypothesis is that the suppression of reproductive cyclicity during states of negative energy balance results from the action of circulating metabolic factors (such as leptin, insulin, ghrelin, glucose, LC-FAs or PYY3-36), in the hypothalamus. My experimantal approach includes use of timed, targeted genetic manipulation, such as tissue-specific gene deletion.

Bina Joe, Ph.D.
University of Mysore, Mysore, Karnataka, India, 1996

The focus of the Joe Lab is on the molecular genetics of complex traits.  The current thrust area is on studying hypertension through a systems biology approach utilizing custom-genetically altered models of differential blood pressure.

Nikolai Modyanov, Ph.D., D.Sc.

Shemyakin-Ovchinnikov Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry, Russia, Ph.D., 1973
Russian Academy of Sciences, D.Sc., 1987

Research in my lab is focused on the molecular aspects of ion transport across biological membranes.  These studies led to the recent discovery of a novel structural member of the mammalian X,K-ATPase ß-subunit gene family, designated ßm due to its exclusive expression in skeletal and heart muscles.  Studies are underway to elucidate functions of this hitherto unknown, muscle-specific protein.

Sonia Najjar, Ph.D.
Stanford University, 1989

Understanding the mechanisms of obesity, type 2 diabetes and fatty liver disease.

Edwin R. Sanchez, Ph.D.
University of Michigan, 1983

Regulation of steroid hormone receptors, with emphasis on the convergence of the heat shock, immunophilin and glucocorticoid receptor signal pathways.

John W. Turner, Jr., Ph.D.
Cornell University, 1970

Current research interests are focused on the development of a single-injection, multi-year controlled-release wildlife contraceptive vaccine to alleviate suffering faced by numerous species which are overpopulating fixed-size habitats and on assessment environmental stress due to chronically deteriorating habitats in wildlife and fishes via fecal cortisol measurement.

Guillermo Vazquez, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Universidad Nacional del Sur, Argentina, 1997

The focus of our research is on the role of Canonical Transient Receptor Potential (TRPC) channels in endothelial dysfunction/inflammation associated to cardiovascular and metabolic diseases. The repertoire of TRPC isoforms expressed in endothelium from different vascular beds, signaling modulating channel function, and molecular/cellular outcomes of TRPC-mediated Ca2+ entry, are some of the subjects of our studies.


Amir Askari, Ph.D.
Cornell University, 1960

Current research is on the interactions of cardiac Na/K-ATPase (the sodium pump) with neighboring proteins of the plasma membrane, leading to the recently appreciated signal transducing functions of this enzyme that regulate the effects of digitalis drugs on cardiac hypertrophy and heart failure.

Catherine (Lijun) Liu, M.D., M.S.
Assistant Professor
Clinical Medicine, Capital Medical University, Beijing, China, 1987-1992
Pharmacology, Capital Medical University, Beijing, China, 1992-1995

Signal transduction of Na/K-ATPase in cardiovascular system and cancer cells

Cynthia M. Smas, D.Sc.

Associate Professor
Harvard University, 1994

Work in Dr. Smas’ laboratory addresses gene regulation and cell differentiation using two model systems: 1.) Differentiation of fibroblastic mesenchymal precursor cells to mature adipocytes that occurs in normal development but which may be accelerated in obesity; and 2.) Neuroendocrine differentiation that occurs during the course of prostate cancer and which may support a transition to androgen-independent tumor growth.


Mark Wooten, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
University of Mississippi Medical Center, 1995

Dr. Wooten's laboratory is interested in the host/pathogen interactions that lead to the development of Lyme disease.  Borrelia burgdorferi is highly infectious and especially adept at evading host defenses and persisting in various tissues, even in an apparently immunocompetent host.  His research takes an immunological approach to identification of host mechanisms involved in control of spirochete persistence and in mediating the inflammatory pathology related to Lyme disease.


Alexei Fedorov, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Director of Bioinformatics Laboratory
Institute of Molecular Genetics, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, 1993

Origin and evolution of introns.  Computer mining of novel genes.  Prediction of constitutive and alternative splicing.  Information content of genes beyond the coding meaning – codon bias and context-dependent codon bias.  How are these biases created and maintained?  Principles of genome organization.

Jiang Tian, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
University of Toledo, Ph.D., 2006

Research in my laboratory is focused on the molecular mechanisms of cardiovascular disease, with special emphasis on uremic cardiomyopathy. Cardiac dysfunction associated with chronic kidney disease and end stage renal disease is responsible for high cardiovascular mortality. Our laboratory uses a Na/K-ATPase alpha1 heterozygous knockout mouse and partial nephrectomy (PNx) model to study the relationship between Na/K-ATPase content, circulating levels of CTS and cardiovascular function. These studies have been funded by the National Clinical Research Program of American Heart Association and by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.


Ewa Skrzypczak-Jankun, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Adam Mickiewicz University, 1976

Structure and mechanism of proteins and enzymes, their relation to the human diseases, inhibition/targeted drug design, X-ray structural analysis of crystals and small angle X-ray scattering in solution, molecular modeling, molecular engineering.  My research concerns proteins and enzymes involved in blood coagulation, cancer and fatty acid metabolism (Figure: ribbon drawing of lipoxygenase, its active site and cavities).


David Giovannucci, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Director, Raymond & Beverly Sackler Laboratory for Neuroendocrine Tumor Research
Wayne State University, 1993

Cellular and molecular basis of peptide and protein secretion of peptide neurotransmitters and hormones; Ca2+ signaling mechanisms; Neuroendocrine cancer; Mitochondrial function in health and disease.  Studies employ a combination of electrophysiological and optical methods to follow in real-time the secretory activity and Ca2+ dynamics of single isolated nerve endings and a variety of acutely isolated or cultured cell types.


A. Champa Jayasuriya, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Shizuoka University, Hamamatsu, Japan, 1997

My research areas are bone tissue engineering, regenerative medicine and biomaterials.

Beata Lecka-Czernik, Ph.D.
Institute of Biochemistry and Biophysics Polish Academy of Sciences,  Warsaw, Poland, 1986

Previously, we have demonstrated that a class of anti-diabetic drugs TZD have adverse effects on bone by causing bone loss and affecting fracture healing in animal models.  We have also showed that this process can be prevented by using slightly modified TZD drugs, which retain their beneficial anti-diabetic effects but are lacking adverse effects on bone. Currently, we are investigating molecular mechanisms by which TZDs induce bone loss and investigating the means by which diabetic bone status can be improved by using bone-specific gene and stem cell therapies, as well as pharmacological therapies.


David C. Allison, M.D., Ph.D.
University of Michigan College of Medicine, M.D.
University of Chicago, Ph.D.

Dr. Allison’s laboratory is studying the mechanisms responsible for the selection of chromosomal abnormalities in aneuploid cancers.  We are specifically testing the possibility that chromosomal abnormalities are conserved to retain cell-survival genes required for tumor-cell growth coincident with the loss of chromosomal regions containing tumor suppressor genes retarding tumor growth, or losses of heterozygosity (LOHs).  Special attention is being paid to the possibility that tumor LOHs might prove to be an important indicator for breast cancer patients.  Techniques employed in the laboratory include Gene Mapping and Expression Arrays, Spectral Karyotyping analysis of cancer chromosomes, and Laser Capture Microdissection of breast cancer cells in paraffin-embedded tissue blocks.

Last Updated: 6/26/15