A Decade of Powerful, Translational Research

Founded in 2000 at the University of California, San Francisco, the Laboratory for Accelerated Vascular Research (LAVR) is a unique collaboration of scientists and physicians who work side-by-side to generate new scientific knowledge about vascular disease that can be transferred directly into safer, more effective treatments for patients. LAVR has proven to be a very fruitful engine of discovery, and was funded by Vascular Cures and the Wayne & Gladys Valley Foundation through 2010. LAVR’s research advances include developing innovative devices to treat patients with aneurysms, being the first to discover that the Notch gene is associated with blood vessel growth, pinpointing a protein in animals that reduces atherosclerosis, and developing new treatments for complex aneurysm repair. The scientists and vascular surgeons who are leading the individual research teams at LAVR are below.

Ronald J. Stoney, MD, Co-Founder

Timothy Chuter, MDTimothy A.M. Chuter, MD is a pioneer in developing new devices and minimally invasive endovascular techniques to repair and eliminate aneurysms in patients who often have no other chance of effective treatment. Dr. Chuter’s current research supports the use of multi-branched stent-graft implantation to treat a TAAA (thoraco-abdominal aortic aneurysm). He is also studying why complications, including partial paralysis, arise from using stents.
Dr. Chuter was the first to use bifurcated stent grafts for abdominal aortic aneurysms and arch aortic aneurysms, the first to use modular multi-branched stent grafts for common iliac aneurysms, and the first to perform endovascular repair of inflammatory aneurysms and aortobronchial fistulae. He holds 23 different patents related to endovascular aortic stent-graft devices, stents, attachment systems, delivery systems, and component junctions.

Michael S. Conte, MD

michael_conte_2014Michael S. Conte, MD is the Chief Medical Officer of Vascular Cures, and the Director of Vascular and Endovascular Surgery and the Director of the Heart and Vascular Institute at the University of California, San Francisco. Dr. Conte leads our latest Vascular Cures Research Network initiative focused on peripheral artery disease (PAD), a crippling form of atherosclerosis in the legs. Widely recognized as one of the leading translational researchers and clinician-scientists in vascular medicine, Dr. Conte led the largest multicenter clinical trial to date examining the outcomes of leg bypass surgery in patients with severe PAD. His clinical interests also include disease of the aorta and its major branches, aneurysms, and carotid artery disease. He is particularly interested in diabetic vascular disease, and is developing treatments to prevent amputation and increase the success rate of vein grafts and angioplasty.

Christopher Owens, MD

Christopher Owens, MDChristopher Owens, MD is working to prevent atherosclerosis, the build-up of plaque in the arteries that restricts or blocks blood flow to specific organs or parts of the body. Atherosclerosis can lead to stroke, heart attack, kidney failure, and amputation of a limb. Studies show that the health of the cells that line the inner surface of all blood vessels, endothelial cells, can predict whether someone will develop atherosclerosis. Dr. Owen’s research involves developing tests to identify unhealthy endothelial cells. In addition, he is working to develop new treatments to prevent vein graft failure and restenosis (abnormal scar tissue) after angioplasty and stenting.

Robert L. Raffai, PhD

Robert Raffai, PhDRobert L. Raffai, PhD has discovered a protein in animals that controls and reverses atherosclerosis, a serious disease caused by the accumulation of cholesterol and fat (plaque) in the artery wall. Plaque can restrict blood flow, leading to Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) and Coronary Artery Disease (CAD). Plaque can rupture, forming blood clots that result in heart attacks and stroke.
Dr. Raffai is also exploring how Type II diabetes can promote PAD and cause problems such as stroke, critical limb ischemia, and heart failure.

Joseph Rapp, MD

Joseph Rapp, MDJoseph Rapp, MD focuses his research on stroke, or “brain attack,” the primary cause of disability. A stroke can result from plaque build-up in one of the two carotid arteries located in the neck. When plaque is sufficiently advanced or ruptures, it can reduce or stop blood flow to the brain and a person either dies or is severely disabled. The most common methods of preventing stroke are to remove the plaque from the carotid artery by surgery or angioplasty and stenting. However, in doing so, tiny plaque particles can break loose and actually cause the very stroke one is trying to avoid. Dr. Rapps’s research studies the reaction of the brain to these fragments. His goal is to refine current treatments to increase safety and minimize risks.
Dr. Rapp’s group is collaborating with Dr. Rong Wang’s group to investigate if aging, hypertension, or diabetes predisposes animals to minor stroke.

Rong Wang, PhD

Rong Wang, PhDRong Wang, PhD is the Director of the Laboratory for Accelerated Vascular Research. Dr. Wang’s team studies blood vessel growth (angiogenesis) and arterial growth (arteriogenesis). They found that the “Notch 4” protein can cause dramatic blood vessel enlargement in adult animals and that the protein called “focal adhesion kinase” is essential for maintaining existing blood vessel structure. Encouraging blood vessel growth can increase healing in traumatic wounds, promote recovery from strokes and heart attacks, or generate the growth of new pathways around blocked arteries in the lower limbs to reduce the potential of gangrene and possible amputation.
Dr. Wang’s recent groundbreaking discoveries include:
Identifying the gene involved in arteriovenous malformations (AVMs)
Increasing the understanding of the molecular and structural differences between arteries and veins, which may help us improve the lifespan of vein grafts
Discovering the first molecular mechanism that specifically controls arterial vasodilation and protects limb tissue from damage when an artery is blocked