Program in Regenerative Cardiovascular Biology


The program seeks to understand how the heart is normally formed during embryonic development, and to use this information to provide new therapies for adults with hearts that are damaged by heart attack, infection, or other diseases.


  • Genes implicated in congenital heart disease, the most common form of serious birth defect, have been identified.
  • Penn researchers have identified ways to expand and differentiate cardiac progenitor cells that can generate functional heart tissue.  (Cardiac development and implications for heart disease. Epstein JA. N Engl J Med. 2010 Oct 21;363(17):1638-47).
  • Researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine are collaborating with scientists at the School of Engineering to develop contractile bio-engineered tissues.  (A microfabricated platform to measure and manipulate the mechanics of engineered cardiac microtissues.  Boudou T, et al.: Tissue Eng Part A. 2012 May;18(9-10):910-9).


  • The Regenerative Cardiovascular Biology Program is one of only three nationally recognized American Heart Association DeHaan Myogenesis Centers focused on regenerating functional cardiac tissue.  The Program is also supported by a consortium contract with the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute for the study of cardiac progenitor cells.
  • Program investigators are probing the ability of drugs and genes to change scar tissue that forms after a heart attack into functional heart muscle using a process called “direct reprogramming.”
  • Ongoing studies from Penn scientists suggest that new blood vessels can be guided to tissues in need of more blood supply by the use of chemical compounds.

"At Penn, we're discovering real possibilities of future treatments for cardiac disease because we have the research and clinical expertise to make it happen." 
Jonathan A. Epstein, M.D., is Director of the IRM Program in Regenerative Cardiovascular Biology and William Wikoff Smith Professor of Cardiovascular Research.  Dr. Epstein was a founding Co-Director of the IRM.  His research has elucidated a genetic program for the formation of the heart and its vessels from different types of early embryonic cells.  His work helps understand the basis of congenital heart disease.