The roles of valvular myofibroblasts and endothelium in the development of human cardiac valvular disease

Vascular disease is the largest single cause of death in developed nations, and the incidence of cardiac valvular disease (disease in heart valves) is significant. The first cells to be adversely affected in vascular disease are endothelial cells, located on the inner lining of blood vessels. In the initial stages of vascular disease, there are modifications to the way endothelial cells regulate calcium signaling, an essential part of communication between cells. Willmann Liang is studying normal and abnormal calcium regulation in two types of heart valve cells: endothelial cells and myofibroblasts (cells involved in wound healing). Willmann aims to understand how calcium regulation in the human cardiac valve is altered with disease, and to determine how gene expressions governing the various components of calcium signaling are modified. Ultimately, the research may lead to the early prevention and treatment of valvular diseases.