The Cardiovascular Research Center at Massachusetts General Hospital


Kenneth R. Chien, MD, PhD

Kenneth R. Chien, MD, PhD

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Lab Overview

Goal: to clone patient-specific master human cardiovascular stem cells that will allow the identification of genetic modifiers, molecular pathways, biologically targeted drugs, and regenerative therapy for heart disease and related disorders

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of mortality in the U.S., and is a growing global health problem in developing nations. In the U.S. alone, approximately 71 million people are affected by coronary heart disease, which costs society $403.1 billion in 2003. At the same time, heart failure is the leading cause for hospitalization, and the demand for heart transplantation continues to vastly exceed the availability of donor hearts. While there is an array of medications and other treatments for heart disease, none of them are cures, and the course of the disease is relentlessly progressive. In this regard, a number of clinical trials have attempted to regenerate heart muscle after a heart attack through the use of bone marrow stem cells, but recently it is becoming clear that there is little or no evidence of muscle regeneration and the clinical results have been largely disappointing. There is now an urgent need to identify the most promising cardiovascular stem cells for achieving true muscle regeneration. At the same time, the technology of human ES cells is moving as such a rapid pace that we are in a position to develop patient specific master cardiovascular stem cells that have genetic mutations that lead to important forms of heart disease. By utilizing these stem cells as model systems, it should be possible to identify the molecular pathways that drive heart disease, and to develop specific, targeted therapy for rare and common forms of heart disease, by directly screening for both genes and drugs that can block the onset of the disease at a cellular level. At the same time, we plan to rigorously study the potential of master cardiovascular stem cells for regeneration of heart muscle and other important heart tissues, including the formation of coronary arterial blood vessels.

Recent News

    • Chien lab announces discovery of a progenitor cell in mice that builds cardiac, smooth
        muscle, and endothelial tissue. See paper at Cell or visit recent news to learn more.


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Massachusetts General Hospital the cardiovascular research center