Research Synopsis

The Demer-Tintut Laboratory studies the causes of disorders of mineralization in the vasculature, such as calcium mineral deposition in arteries and on heart valves. Calcific disease was previously considered a passive, inevitable process, but it is now known to recapitulate embryonic bone formation under the control of bone differentiation factors and inflammatory mediators, in large part due to our research. Our discoveries include developing the first cell culture model of vascular calcification, isolating the artery wall cell capable of mineralization, and identifying the cell as a multipotential mesenchymal stem cell with substantial self-renewal capacity. We also demonstrated spontaneous formation of periodic patterns by these cells and identified the molecular morphogens responsible and discovered their left-right chirality in migration across a micromachined matrix interface. We proposed the lipid hypothesis of osteoporosis and showed the hyperlipidemia reduces bone density and the response to bone anabolic treatment of osteoporosis. This research is essential for developing the first medical treatment for calcific diseases.