Dr. Chen’s laboratory is actively conducting several basic science and translational research projects that are highly relevant to clinical cardiovascular disease and pancreatic cancer.
Cardiovascular risk factors and their molecular mechanisms in cardiovascular disease
We are investigating the effects and the molecular mechanisms of several cardiovascular risk factors, including HIV protease inhibitors, the adipokine resistin, soluble CD40L, and uric acid, on biochemical pathways associated with endothelial cell functions. Some of the biochemical pathways under investigation are the endothelial nitric oxide synthase system, the oxidative stress system, and signal transduction pathways. We are carrying on these investigations using several experimental models, such as myographies, organ cultures, mouse models, human tissue samples, and different types of endothelial cells. Based on the molecular mechanisms we uncover, we develop effective therapeutic strategies to treat endothelial dysfunction and atherosclerosis.
Endothelial cell differentiation and angiogenesis
We are studying the role played by and the molecular mechanisms of hemodynamic factors and several novel molecules on endothelial cells differentiated from embryonic stem cells and from bone marrow-derived stem cells. We are identifying key regulatory genes that trigger endothelial cell differentiation and promote stable angiogenesis. These findings can potentially be applied to the design of novel therapeutic strategies to treat ischemic tissues using genetically engineered endothelial cells. In addition, these studies may provide useful information to genetically engineer novel tissues for vascular grafts.
We have been heavily involved in pancreatic cancer research programs for many years. We have several projects focusing on the role and on the mechanisms of several genes, such as microRNA
196a (miR-196a), X-inactive specific transcript (XIST), and Jude-2 in pancreatic cancer. Our comprehensive studies analyze human cancer specimens, clinical outcomes, established cell
lines, a nude mouse model, and a genetically engineered mouse model of pancreatic cancer called the KPC model. We are developing PLGA [poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid)]-based nanotechnology for molecular imaging and for specific drug and gene delivery, which has great potential clinical applications, such as molecular diagnostics and targeted therapies.