The goal of the Genetics Program is to harness the rich clinical cardiovascular population at the Massachusetts General Hospital to identify and validate novel genomic determinants of cardiovascular disease. Our goal is not to capture the entire cohort of cardiovascular patients presenting to Massachusetts General Hospital, but rather to focus our efforts on extremely well-phenotyped human models that are unique to cardiovascular disease. Of particular interest are "perturbational" studies in humans (e.g., cardiac exercise testing) that elicit robust phenotypes in affected individuals to serve as the springboard for analyses that span from genomics to proteomics and biochemical profiling.
Recent advances in proteomic and metabolic profiling technologies have enhanced the feasibility of high throughput patient screening for the diagnosis of disease states. Small biochemicals and proteins are the end result of the entire chain of regulatory changes that occur in response to physiological stressors, disease processes, or drug therapy. In addition to serving as biomarkers, both circulating metabolites and proteins participate as regulatory signals, such as in the control of blood pressure. Our ongoing studies have helped pioneer the application of novel mass spectrometry and liquid chromatography techniques to plasma analysis. In parallel with the profiling efforts, we have developed statistical software for functional pathway trend analysis and used it to demonstrate significant coordinate changes in specific pathways. Such analysis allows us to gain insight into the functionally relevant cellular mechanisms contributing to disease pathways and increases the likelihood that prospective biomarkers will be validated in other patient cohorts.