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Molecular Cardiology Research Institute (MCRI)

Molecular Cardiology Research Center

Overview

The purpose of the Molecular Cardiology Research Center (MCRC) is to study the molecular mechanisms that underlie cardiovascular biology and disease. Richard Karas, MD, PhD, Elisa Kent Mendelsohn Professor of Molecular Medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine, is the Director of the MCRC.  He is also the Chief Scientific Officer and Vice Chairman for Scientific Affairs for the Department of Medicine, at Tufts Medical Center.

The MCRC is the largest and oldest laboratory in the Molecular Cardiology Research Institute.  The MCRC is equipped for state-of-the-art molecular biological and biochemical research to study cardiovascular physiology and disease. At present, there are five principal investigators and a total of 25 individuals who participate in the research efforts in the MCRC.

Research Focus + Highlights

Principal projects in the MCRC involve molecular vascular biology, and more specifically, signal transduction in vascular and cardiac cells.  One major area of focus in the MCRC is the molecular mechanisms that regulate vascular tone.  Ongoing projects include cloning and characterization of cGMP-dependent protein kinase (PKG)-interacting proteins, PKG regulation of thrombin receptor signaling, and characterization of interactions between Rho/Rho kinases, PKG and the myosin phosphatase. These signaling pathways are also being studied in cardiac cells.

A second major focus in the MCRC involves study of the molecular mechanisms of action of nuclear hormone receptors such as estrogen receptors and mineralocorticoid receptors in cardiovascular health and disease. MCRC investigators first established that human vascular cells and cardiomyocytes contain functional estrogen receptors and mineralocorticoid receptors. This work established the cardiovascular system as a target for direct actions of aldosterone and estrogen, the steroid hormones that signal through these receptors.

Ongoing studies are directed at elucidating the molecular mechanisms that mediate these novel nuclear hormone receptor actions in the cardiovascular system and developing newer, targeted therapies that avoid the side effect profiles of current hormone replacement therapies.

Research Administrator: Patricia Griffiths-Rossiter

Publications

1. Rapid progress for non-nuclear estrogen receptor signaling. Journal of Clinical Investigation. 2010 Jun.

2. Balancing the intended and unintended effects of statins. British Medical Journal. 2010 May.

3. High blood pressure arising from a defect in vascular function. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA. 2008 Apr.

4. HRT and the Young at Heart. New England Journal of Medicine. 2007 Jun.

See All MCRI Publications

Researchers + Staff

Principal Investigators

MariaPilar Alcaide Alonso, PhD
Associate Professor of Medicine, Tufts University School of Medicine

Dr. Alcaide received her PhD in Molecular Biology from Universidad Autonoma of Madrid, Spain, where she studied the immunological aspects of Trypanosoma cruzi infection, the protozoan parasite that causes Chagas disease. As a recipient of a Fulbright postdoctoral fellowship, Dr. Alcaide trained in Dr. F.W Luscinskas laboratory in the Brigham and Women’s hospital where she trained in vascular biology and studied the mechanisms regulating immune cell trafficking. After completion of her postdoctoral research training, Dr. Alcaide was appointed to Instructor of Pathology at Harvard Medical School and successfully competed for an NIH K99/R00 award while in Dr. Luscinskas lab and later joined the faculty at MCRI in September 2011 to establish her independent research program.

Robert Blanton Jr., MD
Associate Professor of Medicine, Tufts University School of Medicine

Originally from Texas, Rob attended college and medical school at Washington University in St. Louis. He joined the MCRI and the Cardiology Division in 2005 as a clinical/research fellow, following his residency training in internal medicine at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. He completed his cardiovascular fellowship in 2009 and is now an Assistant Professor of Medicine. Rob's research examines the molecular mechanisms regulating the development and inhibition of cardiac hypertrophy. In addition, he serves as the Scientific Director of the MCRI Mouse Physiology Core.

Navin Kapur, MD
Assistant Professor of Medicine, Tufts University School of Medicine

Navin Kumar Kapur is an Assistant Professor of Medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine and a staff member of the Division of Cardiology at Tufts Medical Center. Dr. Kapur received his M.D. from Georgetown University in Washington D.C.  He completed training as a medical resident at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center followed by fellowships in Adult Cardiology, Heart Failure, and Interventional Cardiology at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, MD.  As part of an NIH Training Grant directed by Dr. David Kass, Dr. Kapur completed his postdoctoral research training in the laboratory of Dr. Jeffrey Rade at Johns Hopkins.  During this time, Dr. Kapur explored the paracrine effects of transforming growth factor-beta (TGFb) on endocardial thromboresistance in heart failure.

Iris Jaffe, MD, PhD
Associate Professor of Medicine, Tufts University School of Medicine

Iris Zamir Jaffe is an Associate Professor of Medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine, Co-Director of the MCRC, and a staff physician in the Division of Cardiology at Tufts Medical Center. She received her M.D. degree and a Ph.D. in Molecular Biology from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and completed her Internal Medicine training at the Massachusetts General Hospital followed by Cardiology fellowship training at the Brigham and Women's Hospital, both in Boston.

Gavin Schniztler, PhD
Assistant Professor of Medicine, Tufts University School of Medicine

Dr. Schnitzler is an Assistant Professor in Medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine and an Investigator in the Molecular Cardiology Research Institute. Dr. Schnitzler received a B.A. in Biochemistry and in Psychology from Swarthmore College in 1987, and a Ph.D. in Biology from U.C. San Diego in 1993. Dr. Schnitzler completed his post-doctoral training, as a Helen Hay Whitney fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Robert Kingston at Mass. General Hospital/Harvard Medical School, in 1999. Dr. Schnitzler began his independent studies in the Biochemistry Department at TUSM, and moved to the MCRI in 2009.

Staff

Mark Aronovitz
Director of Mouse Physiology Core

Wendy Baur
Director of Cell Culture Core

Patricia Griffiths-Rossiter
Research Administrator

Qing Lu, MD, PhD
Research Associate

Xiaoying Qiao, MD, PhD
Research Associate