Research Focus Areas

Research conducted in Dr. Miller's Cardiovascular Disease and Aging Laboratory focuses on several main areas of cardiovascular disease, particularly valve disease and improving treatment options.

Tackling aortic valve disease

The molecular underpinnings of aortic valve calcification remain poorly understood. There are no available treatments to prevent or slow calcification of the aortic valve or blood vessels. That means people with severe valve calcification require invasive surgical procedures to replace the valve. People with severe atherosclerotic plaque calcification are resistant to plaque regression with lipid lowering and also may have a higher risk of plaque rupture and heart attack. We're working to strengthen our understanding of the mechanisms that contribute to aortic valve and atherosclerotic plaque calcification. We're also developing drugs that slow disease progression and may prevent the need for surgery.

Deepening understanding of mitral valve disease

There are no available treatments to prevent progression of mitral valve prolapse. There's also no ideal approach to identifying people who would respond well to treatment. Thus, people with mild mitral valve prolapse frequently undergo watchful waiting until their valvular regurgitation becomes severe enough to warrant surgical repair or replacement of the valve. Our laboratory is working to deepen our understanding of the molecular drivers of mitral valve prolapse. We're focusing efforts on druggable targets that may be harnessed to slow disease progression and prevent the need for surgery, ultimately improving options for people with mitral valve disease.

Investigating mechanisms that contribute to blood vessel dysfunction with aging and vascular disease

Blood vessel dysfunction can contribute to hypertension, atherosclerosis, arteriosclerosis and increased risk of clot formation. We're studying how different blood vessel cell types change with aging, such as vascular smooth muscle cells versus the endothelial cells that line blood vessels. By better understanding these mechanisms, we aim to identify novel, druggable targets that reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

Improving recovery from cardiovascular surgery

By aligning with strategic priorities in the Robert and Arlene Kogod Center on Aging, we aim to understand the role of biological contributors to accelerated aging in the ability to recover from cardiac surgery. We're also working to develop novel pharmacotherapies and interventions that will improve outcomes.

Transforming surgical care

Through our relationship with the Department of Cardiovascular Surgery, we're developing and testing novel technologies aimed at improving care for people undergoing heart surgery.