Henry M. Sucov



Department of Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine
Eli and Edythe Broad Center for Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research
Keck School of Medicine

Research Topics

  • Developmental Biology
  • Stem Cell Biology
  • Cell Cycle
  • Growth & Proliferation
  • Signal Transduction
  • Cardiovascular & Skeletal Muscle Diseases

Research Overview

Research in my lab is primarily oriented to understanding the cellular and molecular basis of cardiovascular development, and applying this insight to adult heart disease. Congenital cardiovascular defects are the most common class of birth defects, and heart disease is the leading cause of death in the western world.

My lab in particular investigates two major aspects of cardiovascular development (with several subprojects within each): ventricular chamber morphogenesis and outflow tract morphogenesis. We explore signaling and molecular regulatory processes that result in cardiomyocyte proliferation, in the assembly and organization of cardiomyocytes into the compact chamber wall, in second heart field formation and differentiation, in the formation of coronary vasculature, and in vascular smooth muscle differentiation. Molecular components of particular current interest include retinoic acid and retinoic acid receptors, and TGFb family members and their receptors, although we explore a number of additional signaling molecules and pathways and downstream components as well. For our studies, we primarily use genetically modified mouse lines bearing conventional or conditional (tissue-specific) gene mutations, but also employ tissue culture assays, biochemical approaches, and other model organisms as needed. We also explore other aspects of development using the tools of cell lineage analysis and conditional gene mutation that are at our disposal.

We are particularly interested in applying the insight from our developmental studies to the context of adult heart disease. We have two major areas of attention. First, following a heart attack, cardiomyocytes are lost, and the adult heart does not normally regenerate the lost heart tissue, leading to heart failure. Our studies of how embryonic cardiomyocytes proliferate have opened opportunities to see how we might be able to reactivate adult heart regeneration in a way that does not normally occur. Second, we are interested in how mesenchymal cells of the heart choose specific fates during development and in the adult. Typically, these cells become fibroblasts or smooth muscle, but we have seen that we can redirect their differentiation to alternative fates. We study the molecular basis of this fate choice, and how this insight might be applied to lessen the severity of several types of conditions in the adult heart.

Current funding (July 2012):
NIH R01 HL070123: Cardiomyocyte Proliferation and Ventricular Morphogenesis
American Heart Assn 11GRNT7430038: Epicardial Mitogenic Factors

Honors and Awards: Dr. Sucov has been recognized several times by the American Heart Association for his work in cardiovascular development. He has served on many grant review panels and committees, including the NIH Cardiovascular Development and Differentiation (CDD) study section, and is a current member of the American Heart Assn Research Council. In 2007, he was a Visiting Scholar of the Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science.