Connecting Genetics and Heart Disease through Stem Cell Research

  • 5 August, 2014

The Public is Invited to Learn More at “Connecting Genetics and Heart Disease,” A Live Public Webcast from the ISSCR, August 7, 1:30 p.m.-2:00 p.m. EDT

CHICAGO — Scientists know that a person’s genetic makeup contributes to the likelihood of their having a heart attack, but there has remained a gap between their knowledge of genetic indicators and medicine; a gap Harvard University scientist, Chad Cowan, Ph.D., is trying to bridge through stem cell research.

Dr. Cowan’s group has teamed up with the Framingham Heart Study to learn more about how different genetic factors influence cholesterol levels in the blood, and to look for and test drugs that might help lower blood cholesterol. Using a technique called cellular reprogramming, his group made iPS cells from over 60 study participants, which were then used to create patient-specific liver cells and heart cells. These cells are being used to find out how decreasing the amount of a specific protein, Sortilin 1, made in the liver increases the amount of cholesterol secreted into the blood and to search for drugs that counter this effect.

“We believe our research, together with patient medical histories, will continue to improve our understanding of heart disease,” Cowan said. “Our goal is to inform the development of new drugs for heart disease and the process by which drugs are screened for safety and efficacy in individual patients.”

The ISSCR is hosting a free public webcast, entitled “Connecting Genetics and Heart Disease” on August 7, from 1:30 p.m.-2:00 p.m. EDT. Cowan will present an overview of current research and its potential and will field questions from participants. The event will be available via the ISSCR Connect Public Channel at, and interested participants are encouraged to register in advance.

About the International Society for Stem Cell Research (
The International Society for Stem Cell Research is an independent, nonprofit membership organization established to promote and foster the exchange and dissemination of information and ideas relating to stem cells, to encourage the general field of research involving stem cells and to promote professional and public education in all areas of stem cell research and application.

Contact: Michelle Quivey, Senior Communications Manager
International Society for Stem Cell Research

Media interviews with Cowan are available upon request