Åsa Gustafsson, Ph.D.
Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences
Department of Pharmacology, School of Medicine
Dr. Gustafsson is interested in understanding the molecular pathways that regulate the life and death of cardiac myocytes. Activation of cell death pathways is a common occurrence in cardiovascular disease and contributes to the development of heart failure. Using genetic and molecular biology approaches, Dr. Gustafsson is elucidating the role that the Bcl-2 proteins play in regulating mitochondrial function and autophagy in myocardial cells. The Bcl-2 family members are pro- and anti-apoptotic proteins that regulate the mitochondrial pathway of apoptosis in cells, including those of the myocardium. Another area of interest is to understand the mechanism(s) of late onset cardiotoxicity of anthracyclines. While anthracyclines are among the most effective chemotherapeutic agents commonly used in both children and adults, they are problematic because they are associated with cardiotoxicity. Heart failure may manifest years (>10 yrs) after initial exposure to the anthracyline. Cardiac stem cells provide a mechanism for minor repair and ongoing cell turnover in the heart. She has discovered that anthracyclines impair stem cell function in the young heart, resulting in a heart that is more susceptible to stress. Additional research examines how anthracylines interfere with stem cell function and whether stem cell can be used in cell replacement therapy to prevent cardiotoxicity.
Education: B.S. in Molecular Biology (1996) UCSD; Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences, Dept. of Pharmacology (2001) UCSD; Postdoctoral Fellowship (2005) Scripps Research Institute.
Awards and Honors: Keith and Eva Killam Memorial Award, Western Pharmacological Society (2010); AHA BSC Outstanding Early-Career Investigator Award Finalist (2008); AHA Scientist Development Grant (2007); Young Investigator Award Winner, International Society for Heart Research American Section (2005); TRDRP New Investigator Award (2005); Beginning Grant-In-Aid, AHA Western States Affiliates (2005); AHA Postdoctoral Fellowship (2003); AHA Predoctoral Fellowship (1999).
Leadership Experience:AHA BCVS Leadership Committee member; Chair, AHA BCVS Early Career Committee, Chair AHA BCVS Marcus Award Committee, ISHR Council member.
Huang et al. (2010). Juvenile exposure to anthracyclines impairs cardiac progenitor cell function and vascularization resulting in greater susceptibility to stress-induced myocardial injury in adult mice. Circulation 121:675-83.
Hanna et al. (2012). Microtubule-associated Protein 1 Light Chain 3 (LC3) Interacts with Bnip3 Protein to Selectively Remove Endoplasmic Reticulum and Mitochondria via Autophagy. J Biol Chem. 287: 19094-19104. Potential Collaborative Pr