The Daniel S. Shapiro Cardiovascular Research Fund: Exploring cardiovascular regeneration for heart disease prevention

Weizmann Institute


Billions of dollars are spent annually on the treatment of cardiovascular disease (CDV), and economists project that the cost of not investing in prevention and treatment could amount to a staggering $47 trillion worldwide over the next 25 years.1 As the Western world’s leading cause of death, most current CDV research focuses on life-threatening phenomena such as high blood pressure and heart attack. However, discoveries emerging from two Weizmann Institute laboratories support a new approach–one that has the potential to improve medical treatment and save lives.

Prof. Eldad Tzahor, from the Department of Molecular Cell Biology, and Dr. Karina Yaniv, from the Department of Biological Regulation, are collaborating on research into the vascular system—where vessels and tissues circulate fluids, including blood, through the body.

In a developing human embryo, formation of the vascular system happens early on, guided by a complex set of molecular signals. Prof. Tzahor and Dr. Yaniv’s research grew out of the fact that, in many cases, the same signals involved in embryonic blood vessel formation are re-activated in adulthood during cardiovascular disease. By examining early-stage vascular development, the scientists are identifying key molecular “triggers” that contribute to the onset of heart disease. In doing so, they are identifying new targets for drug development, as well as new strategies for clinical treatment.

Prof. Tzahor’s research focuses on early-stage processes that drive the formation of cardiac and skeletal muscle in the developing embryo. For example, in one of his recent findings, Prof. Tzahor helped clarify factors that determine the “window of time” within which cardiac precursor cells can differentiate and form mature heart tissue. These are significant factors for disease conditions, such as the heart failure that results when the body fails to create new cardiac tissues after injury. In broad strokes, Prof. Tzahor’s lab forms a bridge between developmental biology and the emerging field of regenerative medicine, which seeks to promote the growth of new, healthy tissue to replace tissues that have been damaged. His work may provide new insights that could create more effective treatment for adult heart diseases as well as cancer.

Dr. Yaniv’s work focuses on identifying key mechanisms that control the formation of blood and lymphatic vessels in both embryonic development, and in disease. Many embryonic signals are reactivated later in life, and are involved in life-threatening illnesses such as tissue ischemia (a restriction of blood supply), coronary heart disease, and cancer. At the same time, proper vascular development is critical for the delivery of nutrients, oxygen, and for clearance of wastes. Dr. Yaniv examines the link between the formation of blood vessel walls and lipoproteins (the particles carrying cholesterol and triglycerides through the blood). Her research has direct relevance to understanding and developing improved treatments for conditions including atherosclerosis, thrombosis, and cardiovascular disease.

Prof. Tzahor and Dr. Yaniv’s combined objective is to define new techniques and treatments for healthy vascular development and regeneration. Their work may make it possible to create more effective clinical treatments for cardiovascular disease, and to prolong and save lives.

To support the combined research of Prof. Tzahor and Dr. Yaniv, the Weizmann Institute requests a gift of $200,000.


Cardiovascular Scientists

Dr. Yaniv (left) and Prof. Tzahor (right) use mouse and zebrafish model systems to study the development of the cardiovascular system during embryonic development and adult pathologies. The upper right panel shows the four-chambered mouse heart (Tzahor) and the lower panel shows the vascular system in live zebrafish embryo (Yaniv).

Proposed annual budget (in US$):

Experimental equipment
Postdoctoral fellowship
25% salary of a lab technician
Consumable expenses
Chemicals and reagents
Veterinary services for preclinical models
Defrayal of Institute services and personnel in support of science @20% (not including equipment)

1Source: The Worldwide Environment of Cardiovascular Disease: Prevalence, Diagnosis, Therapy, and Policy Issues A Report From the American College of Cardiology, December 2012


The Daniel S. Shapiro Cardiovascular Research Fund

Please copy “Daniel S. Shapiro Cardiovascular Research Fund” and paste in the “Use my donation to support” field on the donation form, or simply type “Daniel S. Shapiro Fund.” One hundred percent of your donation will be used to support this fund in memory of Daniel Shapiro.