Research and Clinical Trials

The Heartheart Institute, in affiliation with UC San Diego, has made research a major focus, with a mission to conduct high-quality, patient-oriented research. UC San Diego is recognized as one of the top 15 research universities worldwide and is among the top 10 institutions in the nation receiving research funding from the National Institutes of Health.

The Institute’s research includes clinical trials, outcomes analysis and evaluation of clinical pathways. We also facilitate basic and translational research, and foster a culture of collaboration to ultimately improve care for those with congenital heart disease.

Our faculty and fellows are currently involved in 45 ongoing research studies, which include clinical trials, to advance the understanding and application of pharmacological interventions, surgical procedures, electrophysiology procedures and transcatheter interventions in the treatment of children and adults with congenital heart defects.

The Heart Institute was a participating center in a recently concluded large Pediatric Heart Network trial comparing Losartan with Atenolol in children and young adults with Marfan syndrome. Several physicians from the Heart Institute, in collaboration with the UC San Diego Bioengineering Department, are investigating cardiovascular flow dynamics, ventricular electro-mechanics and ventricular remodeling. Notably, they are developing a unique web-accessible database of congenital heart disease models as part of the NIH-funded Cardiac Atlas Project.

Our physician-scientists are using a combination of human and animal genetic model systems to unravel the genetic mechanisms of congenital heart disease, with the ultimate aim of improving therapies and preventive strategies. They are exploring molecular mechanisms of heart failure, using induced pluripotent stem cell technology for cardiovascular studies and tissue engineering, and studying the molecular mechanisms by which biomechanical forces stimulate ventricular growth.

The Heart Institute also participates in the following registry studies:

  • Congenital Heart Surgeons Society’s (CHSS) ongoing multi-institutional study of outcomes and practices
  • Improving Pediatric and Adult Congenital Treatment (IMPACT) Registry
  • Pediatric Heart Network (PHN)
  • Congenital Cardiac Catheterization Project on Outcomes registry
  • Pediatric Heart Transplant Study (PHTS) registry

Our vision is to be a world-renowned academic center committed to excellence and advancement in the field of congenital heart disease through innovative and cutting-edge research.

Click here for the lab website of Dr. Paul Grossfeld.

Meet Our Clinical Research Coordinators

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Robyn Jucius
Robyn earned her Bachelor of Arts from the University of Maine and her Master’s in Public Health from Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston. Her research career started at Tufts University School of Medicine Department of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics coordinating PK/PD and drug interaction studies. She then transitioned into a coordinator role for a large prospective genetic epidemiology study on age-related macular degeneration at Tufts Medical Center and was promoted to project manager. She is an author and co-author (published under Robyn Reynolds) of over 30 peer-reviewed publications.

Robyn moved from Boston to Maine and worked at The Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor managing projects in the Reproductive Science department for internal investigators and external global pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, academic and non-profit institutions. She moved to San Diego in the spring of 2016 and has been with the Heart Institute since April.

Gail Aguilar

Gail graduated from UC San Diego with a degree in anthropology, with a concentration in biological anthropology. She interned for the Golomb Research Group at UC San Diego, where she found her passion for clinical research working with statin drugs and the veteran population in San Diego. She later went on to work as a clinical research associate for REVA Medical, Inc., a medical device company specializing in bioresorbable cardiovascular stents.

She has been with the Heart Institute since September 2016.