Changwon Park, PhD
Department of Pediatrics
Center for Cardiovascular Biology
Emory University School of Medicine
Heart disease accounts for 26% of deaths annually in the United States. More knowledge is needed about how the cardiovascular system develops and how it functions to devise better treatments for cardiovascular diseases. FLK1, a receptor tyrosine kinase, is essential for cardiovascular development and in the adult. It also plays a crucial role in neovascularization. Therefore, understanding molecular mechanisms regulating generation and function of FLK1+ cells that give rise to blood vessels and blood cells is essential for delineating the pathways involved in differentiation of vessels as well as postnatal (cardio) vascular regeneration. However, the molecular mechanisms of FLK1+ cell generation and function still remains unclear. Recently, we have demonstrated that the transcription factor ER71 (also known as ETV2) is a critical regulator of FLK1 and thereby it is essential for the cardiovascular system. The long-term goal of my group is to understand the detailed mechanism of cardiovascular development and in postnatal (cardio) vascular regeneration with a special emphasis on transcriptional regulation including ER71/ETV2. To this end, we are currently employing mouse embryonic stem cell differentiation, mouse genetics, genome wide expression assay, NGS (next generation sequencing) including Chromatin Immunoprecipiation (ChIP)-sequencing and miRNA sequencing in conjunction with mouse injury models. The outcome of this work will significantly advance our knowledge on the role of key transcription factors not only in the cardiovascular system but also in neovascularization under pathophysiological conditions. In this regard, we are planning to identify small molecules or chemicals which can target key transcription factors for vascular regeneration via high-throughput screening. This could lead to the development of novel, effective therapeutic strategies for diseases related to dysfunctional vessel formation, an important translational aspect of the proposed studies. In addition, my lab is interested in the generation of functional endothelial cells directly from somatic cells such as skin fibroblasts (direct reprogramming), aiming autologous cell replacement therapy.