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UC Irvine’s growing Division of Cardiology is engaged in a broad spectrum of robust research programs ranging from basic bench science and translational investigations to  clinical trials, alternative therapies, epidemiological studies and health policy. 

These studies are conducted with significant funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and grants from industry. The ultimate goal of our research efforts is to treat and prevent cardiovascular disease for the people of Orange County and beyond.

Our research programs can be grouped into these general categories:

Molecular Cardiology and Imaging Research »

Dr. Jin Kim studies how heart muscle cells (cardiomyocytes) die or survive from ischemia-related injury such as in myocardial infarction (heart attack) and the protective effects of estrogen in those circumstances. This knowledge can be important in devising potential therapies to save cardiomyocytes during acute heart attack or severe chronic ischemia.

Using a comprehensive approach of molecular, cellular and whole-animal models, her team has shown that the cytoprotective effect of estrogen involves inhibition of a stress-induced kinase, p38alpha, and activation of the pro-survival isoform, p38beta. This, in turn, reduces mitochondrial generation of the reactive oxygen species (ROS), forms of unstable oxygen radicals known trigger of apoptosis.

They have proposed an attractive hypothesis explaining how the p38 kinases affect the death process initiated by ROS through the downstream target of the kinase, p53, a known mediator of cell death that is generally seen enhanced in various forms of cancers. Her laboratory has highlighted how estrogen rescues cardiomyocytes by targeting this relationship.
Alternative Therapies in Cardiovascular Medicine and the Neuroregulation of Cardiac Function »

Dr. John Longhurst’s laboratory conducts groundbreaking research describing the neurologic control of cardiac function. This laboratory, which is heavily funded by the NIH and other national organizations, is one of the rare facilities that scientifically and systematically investigates the role of acupuncture and other alternative medical strategies in the treatment of cardiovascular diseases.


Clinical and Translational Studies »

The following Division of Cardiology researchers are collaborating with UC Irvine’s Institute for Clinical and Translational Science:
  • Drs. Byron Allen and Dawn Lombardo are conducting numerous clinical trials in the management of heart failure. With funding from federal, state and industry sources, Dr. Lombardo also is involved in defining the best measures to care for heart failure patients.
  • Dr. Morton Kern is studying coronary hemodynamics and intravascular imaging of coronary atherosclerosism research efforts supported by the Society for Cardiovascular Angiography and Intervention and industry funding.
  • Dr. Pranav M. Patel is UC Irvine's lead researcher in an NIH study of cholesterol and other lipids that are deposited as plaque in coronary arteries. The purpose of the study—COLOR: Chemometric Observations of Lipid Core Containing Plaques of Interest in Native Coronary Arteries Registry—is to develop a registry of standard clinical data from patients who have undergone elective or non-emergent cardiac catheterization with the use of the LipiScan Coronary Imaging System (CIS).

Health Policy Research and Heart Disease Prevention »

Dr. Shaista Malik studies health policy, epidemiology and quality of care issues involving patients with diabetes and metabolic syndrome. She has been a co-investigator on a multi-center grant examining the quality of care given to diabetic patients in managed care organizations. She also has studied the implications of subclinical disease in diabetics, using data from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) to determine the link between coronary calcium scores and future cardiovascular events. Her current interest is the early identification of those at the highest risk for developing cardiovascular disease using non-invasive cardiovascular imaging and developing prevention strategies. Her federally funded research is focused on the use of cardiovascular imaging to modify patient behavior and behavioral interventions to prevent cardiovascular disease.  

UC Irvine’s Heart Disease Prevention Program under Nathan Wong, Ph.D., has contributed significantly to epidemiological studies of metabolic syndrome, hypertension and dyslipidemia, as well as subclinical atherosclerosis evaluated by vascular calcification. It has been involved in multiple national multicenter clinical trials and longitudinal studies of cardiovascular disease, including the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA), Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA), Epidemiology of Diabetes Interventions and Complications (EDIC), Antihypertensive Lipid-Lowering to Prevent Heart Attack Trial (ALLHAT) and the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI).

Wong's laboratory continues to evaluate new risk factors with coronary calcium in several NIH-sponsored population studies. Other projects involve studying the epidemiology of metabolic syndrome using various population databases and a trial examining the role of statins in lowering CRP levels in people with normal cholesterol levels. Another trial aims to study statins’ effectiveness in lowering lipids and cardiometabolic risk.

Edwards Lifesciences Center for Advanced Cardiovascular Technology »

The Division of Cardiology collaborates closely with UC Irvine's Edwards Lifesciences Center for Advanced Cardiovascular Technology, a center within the Henry Samuel School of Engineering that is focused on basic research and the development of new methods to treat cardiovascular disease.

Areas of interest include:

  • Valve replacement technology 
  • Regenerative and degenerative cardiovascular medicine (including tissue engineering and stem cell biology) 
  • Non-invasive (wireless) cardiovascular monitoring, intervention, and imaging 
  • Novel stent or catheter-based therapies including new biological coatings

The engineering expertise applied to these areas includes Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS), nanotechnology, biophotonics, biomaterials, systems biology and computation/modeling.

For more information about our research programs, contact Division of Cardiology Chief Dr. Pranav Patel.