Ronglih Liao, PhD
Harvard Medical School
Following tissue injury or genetic alteration, the heart undergoes a process of molecular and structural remodeling, ultimately resulting in cardiac dysfunction. The central focus of our laboratory’s research is to understand the molecular mechanisms that mediate the transition from a normal to failing heart. Our research approaches attempt to bridge the growing span between basic bench research and patient care, with a goal towards identifying novel therapeutic targets for rapid translation into clinical medicine. We tackle these scientific interests by utilizing an integrated approach combining molecular studies with intensive investigation of cardiovascular function in whole animals, isolated myocardium and single cardiac cells. Current ongoing projects are (1) to elucidate the mechanisms, metabolic regulation, and therapeutic potential of cardiac regeneration using stem/progenitor cells from extra-cardiac sources, such as bone marrow, iPS and resident cardiac stem cells and (2) the molecular mechanisms regulating the development and progression of primary amyloid cardiomyopathy.
Specific to the area of cardiac regeneration- Recent work has demonstrated that terminally-differentiated organs are continuously undergoing cellular turnover with differentiation of tissue-specific progenitor cells. Our group initially demonstrated the therapeutic potential of exogenous primitive muscle cells delivered to the injured heart. This work was among the earliest milestones in the field and served as the basis for an international trial of cell-based therapy. Subsequently, we have identified and characterized a population of cardiac progenitor cells and its relationship and dynamic activity following cardiac injury in the adult heart. Our current research focuses aim to reveal the molecular mechanisms regulating the endogenous regenerative capacity of the heart and to harness such repair mechanisms for the treatment of cardiovascular disease, as well as following injury, and developing approaches to manipulate and promote cardiac regeneration in vivo.
Dr. Liao is a Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. She also directs the Cardiovascular Physiology and FACS Cores at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, both of which aim to bring innovative technologies to the research community. Her research program has centered upon the interrogation of cardiovascular physiology, from the cellular level to the organismal level, to understand the molecular underpinnings of human heart disease. Her research program has focused on two areas of investigation, to define the mechanisms governing the development of amyloid cardiomyopathy and to understand endogenous cardiac regenerative capacity in the adult heart. Her work has been supported through continuous funding from the National Institutes of Health since 1997 from K award to R01 level awards as PI and through collaborative efforts on other research grants and program project grant awards. Her efforts have universally involved collaboration with local, national and international colleagues. Through this process, her research program contributed to the scientific knowledge base and education of the next generation of scientists.