The Path to the Cure for Heart Disease: A Cell Signaling Pathway

Omar Zaki | omar.zaki@yale.edu November 3, 2014

As millions of Americans are struggling with heart disease, researchers like Dr. Michael Simons are making revolutionary discoveries that will ultimately help alleviate or even cure this vicious condition. Specializing in cardiovascular medicine, Simons’ research group at the Yale School of Medicine has been able to identify a major signaling pathway, called FGFR1, that maintains blood vessels to protect them against narrowing from plaque buildup.

According to Simons, these findings could have “serious implications for several diseases such as heart disease, fibrosis, and particularly atherosclerosis, or the buildup of plaque in the arteries’ walls.” In future studies, Simons hopes to use mouse models to learn more about the FGFR1 pathway, and perhaps design a small molecule to target this particular receptor.

Crystal Structure of FGFR1. Image courtesy of Protein Data Bank

Crystal Structure of FGFR1. Image courtesy of Protein Data Bank

Seeking to inspire students to continue such influential biomedical research, Simons offered some advice for the aspiring researcher “Keep your mind open. Do not have preconceived notions about a particular field of research. As long as you are passionate, in an exciting environment, and enjoy what you are doing, everything will fall into place.”

Elaborating on his own path to his particular field of science, Simons stated, “Different types of biology require different mindsets. Some people go into structural biology.  I tried, but you need a different mindset for that type of work. I just kept open to different options and settled on doing this type of work.”