Mark Mercola

Mark Mercola, Ph.D.[La Jolla]

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in this country. At the moment, the only way to effectively replace lost heart muscle cells—called cardiomyocytes—is to transplant the entire heart. We think using a drug to create new heart muscle from stem cells would be far more appealing than heart transplantation.

  • Research

    Dr. Mercola's research is directed at discovering molecules that promote differentiation of cardiomyocyte progenitors.

  • Biography

    Mark Mercola earned his Ph.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles.



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Mark Mercola's Research Focus

Heart Disease

Our goal is to gain a detailed understanding of the mechanisms leading to the pathological consequences of heart disease, and to regenerating new heart muscle. Heart disease remains a major cause of mortality and morbidity in developed countries. Unfortunately, repair of heart muscle following injury is clinically negligible; instead, scar tissue replaces damaged myocardium leading to impaired heart function and a reduction in quality of life. Nonetheless, a modest level of regeneration occurs; consequently, our strategies include development of drugs to enhance new muscle from stem cells in the patient’s heart and as well as other drugs to protect the heart from chronic injury.


To translate this knowledge into clinical therapies, we have devised high throughput screens (HTS) to discover cellular proteins that can be targeted by drugs to achieve therapeutic heart regeneration, or protection from cell death and pathological scar spreading after injury. The chemical biology and functional genomics approaches are presently leading to a comprehensive, systems-level view of key cellular processes and signaling proteins underlying regenerative and protective mechanisms. These screens involve traditional HTS approaches, and also image-based analysis of phenotypic assays, known as high content screens (HCS), screened against libraries of pathway modulators, microRNAs, and siRNAs to identify novel pathways and potentially druggable targets. This approach, in collaboration with the Conrad Prebys Center for Chemical Genomics, has led to a number of cardiogenic small molecules that function by activating or inhibiting cellular proteins involved in cardiogenesis.

About Mark Mercola


Mark Mercola earned his Ph.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1985. Dr. Mercola trained as a postdoctoral fellow at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Department of Microbiology at Harvard Medical School in Boston, MA. He was appointed Assistant Professor in the Department of Cell Biology at Harvard Medical School in 1991 and Associate Professor in 1996. Dr. Mercola joined Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute in 2002 where he is Professor and Director of the Muscle Development and Regeneration Program, and is also adjunct Professor in the Department of Pathology and the Department of Pediatrics at the University of California, San Diego.

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Related to My Areas of Research

• University of California, Los Angeles, BA, 1979, Microbiology
• University of California, Los Angeles, PhD, 1985, Molecular Biology

Other Appointments

• 2007-present Associate Director, Neurosciences, Aging and Stem Cell Research Center, Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute
• 2002-present Professor, Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, Department of Pathology and Pediatrics (adjunt), UCSD School of Medicine, La Jolla, CA
• 1998-2002 Associate Professor, Department of Cell Biology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA
• 1991-1997 Assistant Professor, Department of Cell Biology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA
• 1985-1991 Research Fellow, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA

Funding Awards and Collaborative Grants

1991 - present Grants: NICHD, NHLBI,  American Heart Association, American Cancer Society

Honors and Recognition

• 2007 MERIT Award (National Institutes of Health)
• 1997 Established Investigator Award, American Heart Association
• 1991 - 1993 Basil O'Connor Starter Scholar Award, March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation
• 1989 Richard A. Smith Prize, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
• 1986 - 1989 American Cancer Society Postdoctoral Fellowship

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