The cardiovascular system is the first functioning organ during development. Abnormalities in the formation and/or function of the heart and vessels often lead to embryonic lethality or cause severe health issues in the adult. Our laboratory uses a multidisciplinary approach and the zebrafish model to understand the genetic, molecular and cellular basis of the cardiovascular system during normal development and in diseases.

Several unique features make zebrafish ideal for genetic and embryological studies. For instance, the transparent nature of zebrafish embryos provides easy access to observe and study organ development in live embryos. From classic and chemical genetic screens, we have identified mutations and compounds that affect proper patterning or function of the heart and vessels in the zebrafish. We are now using these mutants and compounds as points of entry to study questions about (1) the differential regulation of the arteries and veins during vessel formation and in the development of vascular diseases (learn more about this project); (2) molecular hierarchies and cellular mechanisms governing heart tube morphogenesis (learn more about project); (3) molecular and physiological mechanisms by which rhythmic cardiac contraction is established and maintained and by which cardiac arrhythmia occurs (learn more about this project); and (4) how the embryonic left-right asymmetry is established and how the heart develops with respect to the embryonic left-right axis (learn more about this project).

Art work created by Yu-Hsien Tsai and Sean Tsai