Research in the laboratory of Wuqiang Zhu, M.D., Ph.D., focuses on understanding the pathophysiology of heart failure and developing therapeutic approaches for cardiac regeneration and repair. The proliferative capacity of cardiomyocytes in the adult mammalian heart is too low to promote structural and functional recovery after injuries. Disorders of ventricular function and structure after ischemic injury reduce cardiac output and can impair diastolic relaxation of the heart, leading to heart failure. Current therapeutic regimens do not address the root cause of heart failure due to ischemic injury, such as the loss of cardiomyocytes and their replacement by a non-contractile fibrous scar.
- Cardiomyocyte proliferation. Neonatal rodent and porcine cardiomyocytes can regenerate after myocardial injury during the first few days of life. This phenomenon is associated with induction of cardiomyocyte proliferation but is lost when cardiomyocytes exit the cell cycle shortly after birth. Dr. Zhu's laboratory is interested in understanding the mechanisms of cardiomyocyte cell cycle withdrawal, developing technology to unlock these mechanisms and providing biological treatments for cardiac regenerative medicine.
- Cell therapy. Transplanted cells have shown great promise for improving cardiac performance in animal models of myocardial injury, but the benefits observed in clinical trials have been less consistent. Advances in tissue and genetic engineering techniques are expected to improve the survival and integration of transplanted cells and to support structural, functional and bioenergetic recovery of the recipient hearts. Dr. Zhu's laboratory is interested in developing and engineering heart tissue using human induced pluripotent stem cells for myocardial regeneration and repair.
- Cardiotoxicity in cancer patients. Cardiotoxicity is a relevant issue for both conventional antineoplastic drugs (anthracyclines) and immune checkpoint blockers (monoclonal antibodies targeting cytotoxic T lymphocyte-associated antigen 4 and programmed cell death 1 and its ligand). Dr. Zhu's laboratory is interested in understanding the pathogenesis of this cardiotoxicity in both animal models and patients who have received cancer treatment, and in identifying chemical agents to protect patients against chemical- and immunotherapy-induced cardiotoxicities.
Significance to patient care
Heart failure is a costly and deadly condition affecting over 5 million Americans. The research in Dr. Zhu laboratory uses in vitro and in vivo models, as well as human biopsy samples, to understand the pathogenesis of heart failure and to develop novel therapeutics to enhance cardiac regeneration and cardioprotection in patients with heart failure.
- Member, Editorial Board, PLOS One, Frontiers in Physiology, Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology, 2019-present
- Member, Peer Review Committee, American Heart Association, 2016-present
- Finalist, Melvin L. Marcus Young Investigator Award in Cardiovascular Sciences, American Heart Association Council on Basic Cardiovascular Sciences, 2017
- Member, Cardiovascular Section Trainee Committee, American Physiology Society, 2013-2016
- Recipient, Caroline tum Suden/Frances Hellebrandt Professional Opportunity Award, American Physiology Society, 2013