Mark Mercola, Ph.D. - November 27, 7-8 p.m., Rockwell Pavilion, UH M.D. Anderson Library

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“Regenerating Damaged Heart Muscle: Using Stem Cells and Systems Biology to Discover Drug Targets”

In the U.S., chronic heart failure has a 10% annual mortality rate and approximately 50% mortality after 5 years. It affects 5.4 million people, with 690,000 new cases each year. Although current medical care has improved survival, therapies do not treat the underlying cause – which is death or damage of heart muscle cells combined with increased scarring and loss of contractile function. As a result, heart failure progresses. Therapies with the potential to reverse disease progression are needed. Recent studies point to a small number of stem cells capable of regeneration. Dr. Mercola’s research focuses on understanding the mechanisms of regeneration. The lab is developing small molecule and RNA-based pharmacological approaches to promote regeneration and improve the function of the damaged heart.

Mark Mercola, Ph.D.
Professor and Director, Muscle Development and Regeneration Program
Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute

Dr. Mark Mercola is professor and director of the Muscle Development and Regeneration Program at the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute and holds adjunct professorships in the Departments of Pathology and Pediatrics at the University of California, San Diego.

Dr. Mercola is known for discovering signaling pathways that control heart formation during embryonic development. These discoveries have provided a mechanistic understanding of how primitive cells in the embryo form heart muscle and are the basis of his current work to regenerate heart muscle cells from human embryonic stem cells and adult cardiac stem cells. He established and directed assay development and screening for the Conrad Prebys Center for Chemical Genomics at Sanford-Burnham.
Currently, he directs a multidisciplinary team of engineers, chemists, and stem cell biologists to develop automated, high throughput techniques to discover small drug-like molecules that direct stem cells to form heart muscle cells that could lead to new classes of drugs to stimulate regeneration of damaged heart muscle. In addition, his lab uses transgenic and surgical models of heart disease to evaluate candidate drug targets and genes involved in stem cell-based creation of new muscle tissue, as well as preservation of heart muscle and function post-injury. 
Dr. Mercola’s research is supported by grants from the Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine. He also directs the Stem Cell Biology Training Program at Sanford-Burnham, is a co-founder of ChemRegen, Inc., and serves on the advisory boards of Vala Sciences (San Diego), Cardiostem (London), the NIH’s Beta Cell Biology Consortium, and numerous scholarly journals.
He attended the University of California, Los Angeles, receiving a B.A. in microbiology and a Ph.D. in molecular biology.