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The Wafic Said Molecular Cardiology & Gene Therapy Research Laboratory
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Mr. Wafic Saïd, a prominent international businessman and philanthropist, provided substantial funding to establish this laboratory. Visit for a biography.
Wafic Said Molecular Cardiology Research Lab

Mission Statement

Our mission is to improve the treatments available for patients suffering from cardiovascular disease by combining basic research aimed at understanding the molecular mechanisms of heart disease with the discovery of innovative small molecule and cell-based therapeutics.


  • Enhance the applicability of stem cells in regenerative medicine.   
  • Investigate the stem cell niche and the role it plays in tissue regeneration.
  • Define the role integrins and chemokine receptors play in normal heart physiology as well as cardiovascular disease.
  • Characterize lipoproteins that are linked to metabolic syndrome and heart disease.
  • Develop small molecule therapeutics for the treatment of heart disease.


What is a stem cell?

A stem cell is a unique cell that can proliferate and differentiate into other cell types with specialized functions such as those of muscle, brain, blood or skin. In adults, they contribute to the repair of damaged tissue by regenerating those cell types necessary for proper organ function.

What is the stem cell niche?

The stem cell niche is the microenvironment in which the stem cells reside. The niche supports the maintenance of stem cell identity and regulates the function of stem cells.

What is an integrin?

The integrins are a family of proteins present on the surface of all cells that are critical for cell movement, growth, and adherence. During an immune response, integrins mediate white blood cell trafficking to sites of inflammation. In a similar fashion, integrins are required for stem cell localization in bone marrow and the subsequent trafficking of these cells to sites of tissue damage.

What is a cell-based versus a small molecule therapeutic?

Cell-based therapies involve the injection of cells into a patient to replace those damaged by disease. Typically, these cells are isolated from a donor (in some cases, the patient) and manipulated in some fashion prior to injection. In contrast, small molecules are low molecular weight drugs chemically synthesized in the laboratory. They are typically administered orally, intravenously, or locally and act on the patient’s own cells. Such drugs are typically optimized for potency, selectivity, bioavailability and side-effect profile.

Principal Investigators and Key Personnel

  • Richard A. F. Dixon, PhD* – Director MCRL
  • Chu-Huang (Mendel ) Chen, MD, PhD* – Director Vascular & Medicinal  Research
  • Ronald J. Biediger, PhD* – Associate Director Chemistry MCRL
  • Peter Vanderslice, PhD* – Associate Director Biology  MCRL
  • Darren G. Woodside, PhD* – Assistant Director MCRL
  • Mehran Haidari, PhD – Sr Research Scientist MCRL
  • Qi Liu, PhD – Research Scientist MCRL
  • Xuhai  (Jonathan) Lu, PhD – Research Scientist Vascular & Medicinal  Research
  • Shaolie S. Hossain, PhD – Research Scientist MCRL
  • Lei Zhou, MD, PhD – Research Scientist MCRL
  • Deenadayalan Bakthavatsalam, PhD – Research Associate MCRL
  • Matthew Robertson, PhD – Research Associate MCRL
  • Jianwen (Jane) Dong, PhD – Research Fellow Vascular & Medicinal  Research
  • Amy R. Caivano – Research Associate MCRL
  • C. William Gundlach* – Research Associate MCRL
  • Anna Kazansky – Research Associate MCRL
  • Sayadeth Khounlo - Research Associate MCRL
  • Robert V. Market – Research Associate MCRL
  • Su Pan, MD – Research Associate MCRL
  • Michael M. Savage – Research Associate MCRL
  • Sidney J. Sherwood, III – Research Associate MCRL
  • Navin D. Warier – Research Associate MCRL
  • Zhenping Chen – Sr Research Assistant MCRL

* For THI professional staff member profiles, see Research

Contact Information

Contact Richard A. F. Dixon, PhD to learn more about our research, publications and team.


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