Vascular Biology and Hematology Research Unit

Vascular biology and hematology research brings together basic and translational biologists with one common goal: translating discoveries in cardiovascular science and technology into innovative strategies for the cure and treatment of pediatric vascular disease and blood disorders.

The cardiovascular system is involved in several diseases that impact children, including congenital structural defects of the heart, genetic abnormalities of heart function, infantile hemangiomas, sickle cell disease and cancer. Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin has nationally renowned, top-ranked programs in heart care and cancer and blood disorders care, making this the perfect place to advance research in vascular biology and hematology. By studying and identifying the components of the circulatory system individually and in an integrated way, we can provide better care for kids.

Research highlights

Vascular biology and hematology research underway at Children’s Research Institute includes:

  • Hemangiomas: Studies identifying the cause of hemangiomas, a benign tumor of the blood vessels that affects 10 percent of newborns. Ongoing studies in collaboration with genomic pediatrics also will identify the genetic basis of hemangiomas.
  • Congenital cardiomyopathy: Studies involving research in congenital cardiomyopathy, a rare form of congenital heart disease. This research focuses on the ability of bone marrow populations to rescue heart function in models of congenital cardiomyopathy.
  • Sickle cell disease: Studies of the integrity of the blood vessel wall in sickle cell disease, which contributes to occlusion of blood vessels and stroke. These studies focus on the role of abnormalities of the nitric oxide pathway, an important regulator of blood vessel relaxation.
  • Congenital heart disease: Studies identifying the genetic risk factors of congenital heart disease. Ongoing research also focuses on developing a non-invasive approach using maternal serum to identify fetal genetic abnormalities with associated cardiac malformations.
  • Vascular injury and disease: Studies on the basic mechanisms of vascular injury and disease. Researchers investigate the mechanisms by which apo A-I mimetics, designed to improve high-density lipoprotein function, decreases inflammation and recovers vascular function. Research preventing vascular inflammation, permeability and developing new therapeutics for repairing congenital heart defects is targeted to improve children’s health.
  • Bleeding disorders: An NIH-funded research center of excellence for studies on genetic abnormalities in children with bleeding disorders.
  • Blood-clotting problems: A study that aims to better predict potential blood-clotting problems and customize care in the operating room for infants undergoing open-heart surgery.
  • Blood vessel formation: A developmental vascular biology program that investigates the basic mechanisms of blood vessel formation in developing zebrafish embryos. Expanding our knowledge of the basic mechanisms of vessel formation could lead to new treatments for related pediatric conditions, including hemangiomas and solid tumors. Additionally, researchers are developing tools for performing high throughput drug screens in zebrafish, identifying targets and potential drug leads for treating pediatric vascular conditions.