The Cardiovascular Research Center at Massachusetts General Hospital

photo by Eva Barajas    
About the CVRC

About the Cardiovascular Research Center

Established in 1811, the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) has long been a leader in successfully bridging cutting edge science with state-of-the-art clinical medicine. Over the past several decades, MGH trainees have played a leading role in biomedical science. In this tradition, the MGH Cardiovascular Research Center is dedicated to advancing human health through fundamental scientific investigations into the mechanisms of cardiovascular disease and related metabolic disorders. At the same time, both the Massachusetts General Hospital and the Cardiovascular Research Center are committed to recruiting, training, and mentoring the next generation of international leaders in cardiovascular science and medicine.

To accomplish these goals, the Cardiovascular Research Center has forged joint programs with leading scientific institutions, including the Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI), the Harvard-MIT Broad Institute, the NIH Framingham study, the Jean LeDucq Foundation, Peking University, and the Salk Institute. In addition, the Center is currently establishing collaborative research programs with leading institutions in the private sector, including Roche, Novartis, Sectoral Asset Management, GlaxoSmithKline and many others. These partnerships will capitalize on the Center's dual expertise in studies of humans and model organisms, along with cutting-edge genetics, genotyping, and unique patient subsets.

The Cardiovascular Research Center was founded in 1990, and occupies over 30,000 sq. ft. of laboratory space in both the Charlestown Navy Yard and the Richard B. Simches Research Building. Dr. Mark Fishman, now president of the Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research, directed the Center from 1990 until 2002. From 2002-2005, Dr. Kenneth Bloch served as Interim Director and then in June 2005, the Massachusetts General Hospital welcomed Dr. Kenneth Chien as the new scientific director of the Cardiovascular Research Center. Prior to his MGH appointments, Dr. Chien directed the Institute for Molecular Medicine at the University of California at San Diego. An internationally recognized biologist specializing in cardiovascular science, he is a true pioneer in developing new therapeutic strategies to prevent the onset and progression of heart failure. Dr. Chien served as director until 2012.

Cardiovascular Research Center investigators have made many groundbreaking discoveries. Among these include:

    • first identification of progenitor cells in the heart
    • cloning of the first vertebrate cell death genes
    • knocking out the genes that produce nitric oxide (NO), showing the importance of this
       molecule to atherosclerosis and stroke
    • clinical use of NO to treat patients with pulmonary hypertension
    • development of gene and cell transfer approaches to treat heart failure
    • performance of the first large-scale genetic screen in a vertebrate (the zebrafish)
    • identification of genes critical to cardiac pacemaking, rhythm, contractile function, and
       normal heart patterning
    • discovery of a new methylase gene responsible for altering DNA structure during an
       individual's lifetime

The Cardiovascular Research Center has taken great pride in the training of scientists with MDs and/or PhDs, as well as graduate students from a variety of Boston area institutions.

The Cardiovascular Research Center has two locations, one in the Charlestown Navy Yard and the other on the main campus's Charles River Plaza complex in the Richard Simches Research Center.

Both the Simches and Navy Yard sites offer state of the art facilities, including tissue culture rooms, warm and cold rooms, histology rooms, autoclave facilities, hot labs, scope rooms and conference rooms. The Navy Yard lab has a topnotch zebrafish facility that is utilized by many scientists both inside and outside the Center, and a transgenic mouse core for both knock-ins and knock-outs. The Navy Yard facilities also contain echocardiogram equipment, specialized microscopes equipped with video capability for making movies, as well as a confocal microscope available to the Center researchers. The Simches lab houses the CVRC Stem Cell Biology + Therapy program, including a dedicated facility for human ES cell based technology, run by Dr. Chad Cowan, and future plans for high throughput screening facility to allow chemical screening in ESX cell based systems. Other cores available to researchers include a Cell Sorting and Flow Cytometry lab and a DNA sequencing core.

The Cardiology Laboratory for Integrative Physiology & Imaging lab is dedicated to large animal studies. An in house interventional cardiologist specializing in large animals performs the surgeries. In addition there are technicians that assist in the daily operations of the lab and can assist in experiment design and project implementation. This lab specializes in large animal imaging, CAT scans and catheter base manipulations. There is also an MRI imaging facility housed in the lab.

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Massachusetts General Hospital the cardiovascular research center