Cardiac progenitors and calcification

Mammalian tissues calcifiy with age and injury. In the heart, calcification of the heart, great vessels or valves is a leading cause of mortality and morbidity in the aging population. Calcification is thought to be a dynamic process where bone forming cells are recruited to the affected tissue, lay down extracellular matrix and then induce mineralization of the matrix in a manner analogous to bone formation in the skeleton. The heart however does not have any osteigenic cells during development and the identity of the cells inducing cardiac calcification has remained uncertain.
Using lineage trace techniques and animal models of calcification, we are investigating the identity of the cell and other cardiac proigenitors that mediate ectopic calcification of the heart and other tissues and molecular mechanisms which can be targeted to treat ectopic calcification. We use animal models as well as human tissue samples to investigate the origins of such cells.