Our scientists study the heart’s biology and investigate how heart defects form, gathering knowledge that can lead to new treatments. Our research includes the following areas.

Stem Cell Treatments for Heart Problems

Dr. Mark Majesky studies how stem cells turn into special cells that build the heart and blood vessels. This helps him understand how healthy hearts develop and how heart defects form. Researchers in Majesky’s lab are using this knowledge to find ways to regrow damaged tissue. This could lead to therapies that repair children’s hearts without heart surgery or a heart transplant.

Helping Damaged Hearts Grow New Blood Vessels

Several years ago, researchers discovered that the drug propranolol can shrink infantile hemangiomas, the most common childhood tumors. It blocks the blood vessels that feed tumors. Majesky is teaming up with Dr. Jonathan Perkins to study how propranolol works. This could teach the researchers important lessons about how blood vessels grow. The researchers hope these insights will help them grow new blood vessels in damaged hearts.

Using Zebrafish to Study Heart Defects

Dr. Lisa Maves studies zebrafish for clues to improve how we diagnose and treat heart defects. Zebrafish are minnow-sized fish that repair organ damage by regrowing tissue. If part of the fish’s heart is damaged, it will grow back to normal within a few weeks. Scientists in Maves’ lab are trying to figure out how this healing process works. This could lead to therapies that help humans regrow heart tissue.

Maves also engineers zebrafish with genetic mutations that are similar to the mutations that cause human heart defects. She closely studies the fish for information on how these mutations affect the heart. This research, which uses Seattle Children’s Research Institute’s Zebrafish Aquatics Facility, could be a step toward better genetic testing for heart problems.

Studying the Heart’s Metabolism

Congenital heart disease and other cardiac problems change how the heart produces energy (metabolism). This can weaken the heart. Dr. Aaron Olson is trying to pinpoint what causes these energy changes and is pursuing treatments that prevent them and improve heart function.