Center for Cardiovascular Biology
In this Section
Yanggan Wang, M.D., Ph.D. is Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and directs a program in cardiac failure. Dr. Wang has an NIH grant to use a mouse model to investigate how the calcium and potassium ionic channels in hearts cells are altered by Calmodulin Kinase II activity. This is being expanded to use animal models of human disease such as aortic or pulmonary stenosis, frequent features of CHD, which produce abnormal thickening of the heart wall. This thickening can lead to heart failure and also to cardiac arrhythmias. Sudden death in patients with heart failure is often due to cardiac arrhythmias. Dr. Wang is developing animal models to examine mechanisms of arrhythmias in heart failure to identify potential therapies to prevent these arrhythmias.
The Cardiac Development Program is co-directed by Drs. Mary Wagner and Paul Kirshbom.
The focus of this laboratory is on postnatal development of cardiac function because most treatments used in pediatric cardiology were developed for the adult with heart disease and thus, may have different effects on cardiac function in the immature heart. Drs. Wagner and Kirshbom have a grant from the NIH to study developmental changes in the contractility of the developing human ventricle, using small pieces of infant hearts which are removed as part of the surgical therapy for CHD. Very little is known about contractility in the very young human heart and understanding the fundamental properties of young cardiac patients may suggest alternate therapies tailored to the pediatric cardiac patient. They has also initiated a collaborative study with adult and pediatric cardiologists and surgeons to examine tissue biopsies at the time of pulmonary valve replacement (PVR) surgery and correlate the molecular and cellular properties of the tissue to pre- and post-operative imaging, cardiopulmonary testing and blood biomarker levels in order to optimize the timing of PVR surgery. Additionally, they are pursuing studies on the deleterious effects of oxidative stress on infant hearts and possible therapies to ameliorate this injury. Lastly, in collaboration with adult cardiology, they are investigating the use of novel molecular therapies to enhance cardiac regeneration as a treatment for CHD.
The Cardiac Neuroprotection Program is directed by Bill Mahle, M.D., Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Shannon Hamrick, M.D., Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Division of Neonatology. Children with CHD are particularly susceptible to brain injury both from the abnormal oxygenation and flow to the brain due to their heart defect and possibly to further injury from required surgery. In this program they use advanced MRI imaging of the newborn brain with serum measurements of substances known to be increased during inflammatory stress to determine the extent of injury and to test ways to minimize brain injury. They also have experimental studies with infant piglets in which they study ways to minimize brain injury when the heart beat is arrested and whether drugs such as progesterone can decrease or reverse this injury.
We have a collaborative program between Ajit Yoganathan, Ph.D., Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Kirk Kanter, M.D., Professor of Surgery at Emory and CHOA on the use of computational modeling to help design surgical treatments for infants with CHD. They have developed a state-of-the-art virtual surgery environment to allow the complex CHD anatomy to be visualized and also to explore a number of surgical options with an interactive predictive interface with MRI imaging coupled to computerized modeling of flow and pressure. The overall goal is to design a tool for customizing a surgical approach to an individual patient with CHD.