Research in the division spans basic science to clinical research to population studies. Investigators focused on basic science advances have laboratory space in the Saha Cardiovascular Research Center located in the Biomedical Biological Sciences Building. The mission for cardiovascular research can be found here. Under the direction of Alan Daugherty, PhD, DSc, the Saha CVRC is home to extramurally funded programs in:

Atherosclerosis and Aneurysm

Alan Daugherty, PhD, DSc; Vicky King, PhD; Hong Lu, MD, PhD; Venkat Subramanian, PhD

Cardiac Imaging

Steve Leung, MD; Vince Sorrell, MD, Mikel Smith, MD, M. Elizabeth Oates, MD

Platelet Function and Thrombosis

Zhenyu Li, MD, PhD; Binggang Xiang, PhD; Adrian Messerli, MD; David J. Moliterno, MD

Cardiomyocyte Biology and Heart Failure

Ken Campbell, PhD

Regenerative Therapies and Stem-Cell Biology

Michael Sekela, MD

Research is facilitated by state-of-the-art technology for small molecule mass spectrometry (under the direction of Andrew Morris, PhD) and advanced cardiovascular imaging.

Cardiovascular Research Imaging Team

The Cardiovascular Imaging Research team is an active collaboration of adult and pediatric cardiovascular clinical imaging specialists (cardiology and radiology), physiologists, vascular biologists, anatomists, and nephrologists. We participate in investigator-initiated basic and clinical research, single and multicenter clinical trials that have an emphasis on cardiac imaging. We are involved in imaging sequence development and quality improvement initiatives. Our major interest is in creating a patient-centered, cost-effective, image-guided approach to managing patients with cardiovascular disease. Review here for more information.

Illustration of the human heart within ribs.

Clinical Trials

The division supports a clinical trial section and clinical research manager Jennifer Isaacs, MS, CCRP. Phase I-IV drug and device clinical trials across a multitude of areas including structural heart disease, coronary artery disease, heart failure, and electrophysiology are currently in progress.

The strength of our clinical research efforts, particularly regarding innovative catheter-based approaches to heart and vascular disease, is unmatched. We lead the latest in cardiovascular treatment including renal denervation, left atrial pressure monitoring for heart failure, bioresorbable coronary stents, and stem cell regenerative medicine. Historically, we have been a top enroller in multicenter trials investigating novel devices for patent foraman ovale (PFO) closure, left atrial pressure monitoring (to treat heart failure), and atrial septal defect (ASD) closure, as well as novel drugs for the treatment of acute coronary syndrome (ACS) and the prevention of secondary coronary events.

Our strength and commitment to clinical trial research increase the accessibility of state-of-the-art treatments to patients across Kentucky that would otherwise not exist in this region of the country. The UK Center for Clinical and Translational Science, which is supported by the National Institutes of Health, places the University in an elite group of 60 biomedical research institutions poised to solve the toughest challenges in medicine and surgery using innovative approaches. Learn more about the current clinical trials here

Alliance Research Initiative

The Alliance Initiative capitalizes on collaboration and the transdisciplinary strategy built from the best practices and metrics across the nation in developing programmatic research. It is designed to provide seed funding and support for multidisciplinary teams of scientists, from colleges and centers across the University’s campus, to find answers to the health challenges that disproportionately affect Kentuckians. For information about the Alliance goals, review the information here. The cardiovascular research priority area (RPA) is part of four alliances: 

Aortopathy Alliance Research Center (UK-AARC)

The Aortopathy Alliance Research Center (UK-AARC) is led by Alan Daugherty, PhD and Lisa Cassis, PhD. 

Aortopathies are a spectrum of diseases in which specific regions of the aorta pathologically dilate, dissect, or rupture with a high risk for death. There is no validated medical therapy. Although there are advances in surgical treatment, the mortality rate remains high due to the nature of these diseases and insufficient guidelines available for the optimal time of the surgery. This program is to create a “best in class” by developing the pinnacle of this critical research area for health. UK already has great depth in the faculty and facilities of this research arena, with its basic research scientists being one of the most National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded institutions in the country in this research area. The intent of the alliance is to parlay the existing strengths of basic science researchers to enhance the translation of their research to the clinical and population arena.

The alliance will also assist the development of early-career clinical faculty to become extramurally funded physician-scientists. The development of the physician-scientist community will be assisted by our recent acquisition of funding for a center with one of the most highly NIH-funded physician-scientists in aortopathy research, Scott LeMaire, MD, at Baylor College of Medicine. With the mechanisms of this American Heart Association (AHA) funding for the UK-Baylor Aortic Center, Dr. LeMaire will provide assistance in the development of physician-scientists, including surgeons, at UK.  Overall, the alliance is designed to enhance the acquisition of programmatic funding and facilitate the research careers of clinicians who are heavily vested solely in the clinical care of patients with aortopathies.

Myocardial Recovery Alliance (MYRA)

The Myocardial Recovery Alliance (MYRA) is led by Ken Campbell, PhD, and Emma Birks, MD, PhD. 

The MYRA supports the cardiovascular research priority area by:

  • capitalizing on our national-level clinical strength in advanced heart failure.
  • building transdisciplinary research programs that bridge from basic to clinical science.
  • supporting junior faculty as they develop research programs focused on myocardial recovery.
  • facilitating training of students, residents, and fellows as they seek to improve treatments for patients who have heart failure.

Transdisciplinary Implementation Science Alliance (TISA)

The Transdisciplinary Implementation Science Alliance (TISA) is led by Jing Li, MD, MS, (lead chair), Jerod Stapleton, PhD, and Gretchen Wells, MD, PhD.

TISA includes two key components—a proposed study targeting cardio-oncology practice research, which aims for subsequent extramural funding (R01 or equivalent) submission, and establishment of a transdisciplinary implementation team at UK that will increase resources to build an implementation science network, mentor junior faculty, and pursue federal grant funding. The TISA team innovatively integrates two research priority areas (RPAs) as defined in the University's vice president for research's strategic initiative: cardiovascular sciences and oncology sciences. Cardiovascular toxicities from chemotherapy, radiation, and targeted or hormonal treatments interfere with optimal cancer management, decrease quality of life, and affect overall survival.

TISA leverages two of UK’s strongest resources — Markey Cancer Center and Gill Heart and Vascular Institute, by proposing a much needed, innovative platform that integrates research and fosters multidisciplinary collaboration to tackle gaps in our knowledge and ultimately improve both cancer- and cardiovascular-related health outcomes in this growing population. TISA co-chairs have had meetings with RPA leadership and obtained their letters of support. Among currently identified early-career faculty, there are several in either the Markey Cancer Center or in cardiology who will receive mentoring in conducting implementation science research and plan to pursue National Cancer Institute and National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute implementation science funding opportunity announcements. All TISA educational sessions and collaborative events will be coordinated with cancer and cardiovascular RPAs.

Virus Induced Thrombosis Alliance (VITAL)

Virus Induced Thrombosis Alliance (VITAL) is led by Beth Garvy, PhD and Sidney "Wally" Whiteheart, PhD. Thrombosis, the formation of clots in blood vessels, lies at the root of the causes of many cardiovascular disease deaths such as strokes, heart attacks, and deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

Infectious disease can increase the chance of this coagulation dysfunction, and some viral infections, including HIV1+/AIDS, double the risk of occlusive cardiovascular disease. VITAL is investigating why infections cause an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

The combination of cardiology and virology is critical, especially now, as the effect of COVID-19 on clotting becomes clear. VITAL’s initial focus on the thrombotic risks associated with HIV1+/AIDS has grown into a collaboration with the Bluegrass Care Clinic to examine coagulation dysfunction in COVID-19 patients.

Follow for updates on VITAL here.

Other Features of the Division Cardiovascular Research

Biostatistical Request

Need statistical help for a project?
Please fill out the cardiology study design and data analysis request form:

Minority Mentoring

In collaboration with the Lexington Fayette chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Advanced Cardiovascular Imaging Research Team (CVIRT) offers a mentoring program open exclusively to minority students enrolled in Bryan Station High School (BSHS). Students are placed in mentoring teams to guide them through career options in health and biomedical science disciplines and to serve as an adjunct support group for the challenges of high school years and beyond. 

Platelet Colloquium

The Platelet Colloquium is a biennial meeting that gathers key thought leaders, eminent scientists, and visionaries to discuss in an open, scholarly, and collaborative forum emerging information from the integrated fields of platelet biology, thrombosis, and hemostasis as gleaned from basic, translational, and clinical investigations.  UK last held the meeting in 2015 and will again host the event in 2021. To find out more about the event this year, please visit

Related Centers

Saha Cardiovascular Research Center

The Saha Cardiovascular Research Center (SCRC) is responsible for producing our most important basic science research. Through extramurally funded programs, SCRC physician-scientists and researchers work in the laboratory studying fundamental functions of the cardiovascular system, such as atherosclerosis and aneurysm, cardiac imaging, bioactive lipid mediators, platelet function and thrombosis, and stem-cell biology. Their research is often the building blocks for our clinical trial research to better understand and uncover cures for various cardiovascular conditions.

Kentucky Center for Clinical and Translational Sciences

For information on the Kentucky Center for Clinical and Translational Sciences visit: