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Yingchun Li, MD, PhD

My strong interest is in pursuing research into the mechanisms of disease from a cell molecular biological approach and translating those findings into tools, which help physicians make correct diagnoses and give a proper treatment. I have a strong background in placental biology and histopathology, cell molecular biology, and trophoblast stem cell biology.

In the United States, 1 in 4 women succumbs to heart disease. Despite advances in medical technology, ischemic heart disease continues to be a major cause of death and disability. While women may have lower rates of anatomical coronary artery disease, they suffer from coronary MICROVASCULAR disease more frequently than men, and they also tend to have more symptoms, ischemia, and adverse outcomes. Cell-based therapies offer a promising option for the treatment of acute myocardial infarction and the beneficial effects of the various cell types have been demonstrated by basic researchers and clinical studies.  Mature endothelial cells are limited in their regenerative capacity, whereas endothelial progenitor cells(EPCs), in general, have been shown to have the ability to home to sites of endothelial injury and ischemia. Traditional sources of EPCs include bone marrow, spleen, the blood vessel wall, adult peripheral blood, and umbilical cord blood.  Accessing EPCs from the first three is invasive, but there are also limitations with adult peripheral and umbilical cord blood EPCs. For instance, EPCs in peripheral blood are scarce, and the volume of umbilical cord blood is limited.  Thus, the need for a source of EPCs that can be obtained non-invasively and that has therapeutic potential is vital.  The goal of the currently proposed research is to characterize a population of human placental microvascular endothelial cells(HPMECs) isolated from full-term human placenta.  HPMEC can be readily isolated from human term placenta. Comparing to other cells, HPMEC can be readily grown into a large quantity, avoiding ethical and logistical issues as harvesting of HPMEC does not harm to the mother or the baby.