Griffiths Cardiovascular Research Laboratory

Our People

Photo: Dr. Leigh Griffiths

Dr. Leigh Griffiths

VetMB, RCVS Diplomate of Small Animal Surgery (Soft Tissue), Diplomate ACVIM (Cardiology), MRCVS, PhD, Assistant Professor

Dr. Griffiths graduated from Cambridge University in 1995, spent a year in small animal practice and then completed a residency in small animal soft tissue surgery at Glasgow University Veterinary School.  In 2000 he earned the Royal College of Veterinary Surgery diploma of small animal soft tissue surgery.  In 1999 he accepted a position as a lecturer in small animal surgery at University of Liverpool Veterinary School.  Dr. Griffiths is the first veterinary surgeon in the United Kingdom to train as a microvascular surgeon at the world-renowned Canneisburn Hospital.  He completed a fellowship in cardiac surgery at Colorado State University in 2003 followed by a PhD and residency in Cardiology.  In 2007 he joined the faculty at the University of California – Davis, where he runs the cardiovascular surgery program.  He provides services for cardiac angiography and non-invasive tests such as echocardiography and electrocardiography.  He is also interested in interventional cardiology, including pacemaker implementation, balloon valvuloplasty and patent ductus arteriosus occlusion.  Dr. Griffiths offers surgical options unavailable elsewhere: open heart surgery, procedures to correct congenital defects and selected cardiac tumor surgeries.  Dr. Griffiths’ basic science research program involves looking for ways to identify and ultimately avoid, the barriers to transplantation of animal derived tissue scaffolds for use in production of tissue engineered tissues (valve, vascular and cardiac patch replacement) and organs (heart transplantation) for implantation in animal and human patients.


Photo: C.W Jenny Chang

C.W Jenny Chang

Educational – Chia-Wei “Jenny” Chang was born in Kaohsiung, Taiwan on September 24th, 1982. Jenny finished elementary and middle school education in Taiwan. In 1998, Jenny moved to Belize City, Belize, where she attended Pallotti High School and graduated as the salutatorian in May, 2002. Jenny enrolled at University of Wisconsin – Madison for her undergraduate study, majoring in genetics. Jenny participated in research opportunity with Dr. James L. Kecks to study the oligomerization of RecQ helicase in E. coli and received a Hilldale Undergraduate/Faculty research fellowship in 2004. In the summer of 2005, Jenny was a summer undergraduate research fellow (SURF) at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN, and worked on lipid trafficking in Dr. Richard Pagano’s lab. Jenny graduated with her bachelor in science with honors from University of Wisconsin – Madison in May, 2006. In August of 2006, Jenny enrolled as a Ph.D student at Loyola University Medical Center, Maywood, IL. In the spring of 2008, Jenny joined Cell and Molecular Physiology program and the lab of Dr. Donald M Bers to study the hypertrophic signaling in adult cardiac myocytes. Later that year, the lab relocated to University of California – Davis, where Jenny has been working on her dissertation research. In June, 2009, Jenny was awarded a two-year predoctoral fellowship from the American Heart Association (Midwest Affiliate). Jenny also completed a business development certificate from Graduate School of Management at University of California – Davis in 2011. Jenny graduated with her Ph.D degree in August, 2012 and is pursuing a post-doctoral fellow position in laboratory of Dr. Leigh Griffiths in January, 2013.

Research biography – My dissertation research focuses on the receptor-mediated hypertrophic signaling pathway in adult ventricular myocytes. In particular, my project examines the activation and translocation of protein kinase D and histone deacetylase 5 using GFP-tagged adenovirus in cultured myocytes isolated from normal rabbits and heart failure rabbits. I am experienced with confocal fluorescence microscopy, fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) imaging, primary cell culturing, molecular biology, western blotting, co-immunoprecipitation and immunostaining. I am looking to learn in vivo animal experiences, stem cell biology and other techniques as a post-doctoral trainee to pursue my interest in translational research related to human cardiac disease and development.

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Photo: Maelene Wong

Maelene Wong

EDUCATION/WORK: Maelene began her undergraduate education at UC Berkeley in 2000. Anxious to contribute to the advancements and progress in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine, Maelene joined the Cell and Tissue Bioengineering Laboratory in 2002 as an undergraduate researcher. After graduating in 2004 with a B.S. in Bioengineering, Maelene's enthusiasm for cardiovascular tissue engineering led her to a research associate position in the Cardiac Stem Cell Translational Laboratory at UCSF. In 2007, Maelene entered the PhD program in Biomedical Engineering at UC Davis and anticipates completing her degree in early 2013 with a Designated Emphasis in Translational Research.

RESEARCH: Maelene's work centers on the generation of a functional scaffold for heart valve tissue engineering. To render xenogeneic scaffolds derived from xenogeneic tissues immunologically-acceptable, Maelene has developed a novel method to achieve antigen removal using a stepwise approach. Using this stepwise antigen removal strategy, Maelene has demonstrated that the global residual antigenicity of bovine pericardium is significantly reduced and the detection of the two most critical barriers to xenotransplantation (alpha-gal and MHC I) are eliminated compared to current decellularization protocols while biomaterial structure-function properties and recellularization potential are maintained.

Future work includes the continuation of biomaterial characterization via fatigue testing and in a large animal model. Studies toward the directed differentiation of stem cells on these xenogeneic scaffolds will also be undertaken. Application of our novel solubilization-based antigen removal method will be expanded to other tissues and organs of the body with the ultimate goal of translating this technology into engineered tissues and organs for patients.

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Photo: Angeliki (Angela) Papalamprou

Angeliki (Angela) Papalamprou

EDUCATION: After finishing her bachelor’s degree on Molecular Biology and Genetics, Angela went to the UK and pursued a MSc. in Sports Physiology where she worked on a ground-breaking project on endogenous Cardiac Stem Cell activation following exercise training. There she discovered her passion for Molecular Cardiology, which led her to UC Davis for a Ph.D in Molecular, Cellular and Integrative Physiology. At UC Davis, Angela rotated in three different laboratories before joining Dr. Griffiths’ laboratory in September 2010. Between 2012-2013, Angela received the HHMI-IMBS award, which entails participating in an intensive two-month summer institute that included cardiovascular and grant writing courses and clinical rotations in the UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento (including Cardiology, OR, Heart Clinic, ER). She valued the rare opportunity to be next to physicians, observe closely how they approach each case and ask them about the limitations and problems of current treatments/methodologies. Informal discussions with patients have motivated her even more about the impact translational research may have on patients. In June 2013 Angela received a 2-year Predoctoral Fellowship from the American Heart Association for her project on myocardial patch tissue engineering (WSA).

RESEARCH: Angela is working on the development of an immunologically acceptable myocardial scaffold that could be used for tissue engineering applications (such as after heart attacks). She believes it is a very exciting project because it combines the clinical need for a readily available biological scaffold that would serve as a myocardial patch and that would also be acceptable for implantation in an immunocompetent recipient. During her time in this laboratory, Angela set up the myocardial patch model from the beginning and developed all the antigen removal and characterization protocols for this tissue (IHC, biomechanical and biochemical assays, etc). She is currently working on recellularizing her myocardial scaffolds with murine and human Mesenchymal Stem Cells (MSCs), assessing recellularization capacity/efficiency vs. literature controls and implanting her scaffolds into an iv vivo subcutaneous mouse model.

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Photo: Ailsa Dalgliesh

Ailsa Dalgliesh

Before attending university, I worked with both large and small animal veterinarians across the United States and in the south of England. It was my interest in veterinary medicine that prompted me to pursue a Bachelor of Science in biological sciences with an emphasis in neurobiology, physiology, and behavior from the University of California, Davis.  During my undergraduate career, I continued working within large animal medicine and in doing so, became more involved in research. I have always been fascinated by the cardiovascular system, so during my senior year I reached out to Dr Griffiths to learn more about his research specifically. It is within this lab I have found the perfect balance of medicine and research and it is where I will complete my graduate research for my Ph.D. program; Molecular, Cellular and Integrative Physiology.

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Photo: Katherine Gates

Katherine Gates

I am a first year Veterinary Scientist Teaching Program (VSTP) student at UC Davis.  I completed my BS in Animal Science at the University of Maryland, College Park in 2012 but my interest in research began in high school when I spent a summer at Southern Illinois University working in a histology lab.  In my second summer of undergraduate school I sought out an internship at NIH’s veterinary pathology department in Bethesda Maryland to learn about pathology.  I assisted in necropsies and slide readings as well as embedding tissues for the microtome.  Since my early childhood I wanted to be a veterinarian, but my summer at NIH showed me that I could combine both veterinary medicine and research.  In my junior year I worked in a reproductive physiology lab learning basic science like PCR, RNA extraction, and micro-dropping.  Encouraged by my experience, I took a class about Immunology and knew I had found my passion.  In the summer of 2011 I received the Summer Scholars Grant from UMD and completed a summer research project in which I investigated the effects of NNK on the activation of naïve T cells. It invigorated me to have a project of my very own, to learn to write my own protocols, to collect my own data and I knew that I wanted to pursue a dual degree in both veterinary medicine and Immunology.  During my interview process for the VSTP at UC Davis I met Dr. Griffiths and I knew I wanted to do my research with him.  Dr. Griffiths’ expectations for a Ph.D. candidate clicked with mine and I knew that he would be an excellent guiding force in my pursuit of a Ph.D. in Immunology.  At the moment I am in my first year of vet school but I will join Dr. Griffith’s lab in the fall of 2014. In the meantime I plan to work in Dr. Griffith’s lab during my summers learning the techniques I will need to complete my Ph.D.

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Photo: Alycia Cook

Alycia Cook

Alycia is a junior specialist in Dr. Griffiths' lab and recently graduated from UC Davis with a Bachelor of Science degree in Exercise Biology. During her junior year, she was eager to get involved in molecular biology research and joined the Orthopedics Lab in UCDSVM’s department of Anatomy, Physiology and Cellular Biology. During her senior year, she worked on an undergraduate research project examining VEGF expression in mice osteoblast precursor cells and rat osteosarcoma cells under hypoxia. She is currently broadening her molecular and cellular research experience by collaborating on cardiovascular tissue engineering projects, in addition to learning new and valuable scientific approaches and techniques.

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