Our Team

Dr. Guillermo Torre-Amione is the Director of the Heart Failure Research Laboratory at Houston Methodist, and is a world renowned researcher examining the mechanisms of immune activation and inflammation in congestive heart failure. With his background doctorate in immunology, he is uniquely positioned to explore this innovative mechanism contributing to heart failure. He has proposed, validated and conducted mice experiments showing that B-cells (certain kinds of white blood cells in the blood), which were unsuspected in the past, contribute significantly to causing fibrosis (scarring) in the heart. Dr. Torre-Amione has also led the first two FDA-approved trials exploring the impact of suppressing T-cells (a different kind of white blood cell).  Currently, he is exploring novel strategies of combining nanotechnology to create a vaccine to prevent the progression in heart failure.

Dr. Arvind Bhimaraj is the Co – Director of the Heart Failure Research Laboratory. He has been in this position since 2016 and has taken up a leadership role in guiding the trajectory of the laboratory to promote a collaborative translational work for all the laboratory faculty members. He also presides over the weekly laboratory meeting and guides the research fellows on their work. His area of focus is anti-fibrotic mechanisms and how to promote recovery of a heart. He has developed a unique mouse model to study such mechanisms. He actively collaborates with researchers in the institute of nanotechnology and regenerative medicine with a focus to create a nano-RNA therapy to promote recovery (healing) of damaged hearts. He is also working actively to explore similar mechanisms in heart tissue (biopsy sample) from heart transplant patients to identify mechanisms of fibrosis and hypertrophy (damage) in these hearts in an effort to create a genetic test to identify these mechanisms from blood tests. He actively collaborates with researchers in the institute of informatics at the Houston Methodist Research Institute.  His ultimate goal in this area is to identify mechanisms and create treatment strategies to decrease damage to a transplanted heart and hence prolong longevity in this population.

Dr. Barry H. Trachtenberg is a cardiologist specializing in heart failure and cardiac transplantation. He is also the director of the Michael Debakey Cardiology Associates Cardio-Oncology program, an evolving field devoted to prevention and management of cardiovascular complications of cancer therapies such as chemotherapy and radiation. He is conducting research studying novel genomic biomarkers, nanopeptide biomarkers, and wearable fitness devices to detect heart damage earlier, and thus prevent clinical heart failure in patients receiving life-saving chemotherapy. In addition, he is interested in the genetic predisposition of chemotherapy induced cardiomyopathy, as well as other types of cardiomyopathy. He has contributed to many publications related to advanced heart failure, cardiac transplantation, regenerative therapies, and ventricular assist devices. Dr. Trachtenberg is a member of the American Heart Association, the International Society for Heart and Lung Transplantation Association, Heart Failure Society of America, and the International CardiOncology Society of North America. test 1
Dr. Ashrith Guha is cardiologist with a specialization in the care of patients with advanced heart failure, mechanical circulatory support, and cardiac transplants. He has a special interest to treat patients with pulmonary hypertension and has used this passion in the research laboratory to develop a nanoparticle delivery system for treatment of pulmonary arterial hypertension. Using a rapamycin (a medication that decreases arterial wall thickening) laden polymeric nanoparticle, it was successfully demonstrated in mice (a monocrotaline model of pulmonary arterial hypertension) to have a beneficial effect on pulmonary artery changes and have less toxic side effects.  Using this context, he is currently collaborating with nano-researchers to develop nanoparticles for mRNA delivery for treatment of pulmonary hypertension. He is also studying pulmonary vascular remodeling in our heart failure model and the role of hyaluron in the development of pulmonary hypertension in heart failure patients to better describe these mechanisms. In line with this area of interest, he also focuses on the right ventricle, which is the chamber that pumps blood into the pulmonary vasculature and therefore often gets effected by high pulmonary pressures. A unique pathway alternate, polyadenylation, can affect the genetic material in a cell and hence cause disease. Dr. Guha is studying the contribution of this mechanism in the right ventricle when there is pulmonary hypertension apart from heart failure. In this area of work, he has secured funding from the National Institute of Health in collaboration with Dr. Karmouty-Quintana‘s group at UT –Houston. Apart from working with the mice model, he has established collections of serum and heart tissue samples in patients with pulmonary hypertension and heart failure.
Dr. Keith Youker earned his Ph.D. in Cardiovascular Sciences from Baylor College of Medicine and was the first graduate from this program. The program used a broad knowledge approach to training including course work from medical school, graduate school, and cardiovascular core courses designed for basic scientists to work in clinical cardiovascular research. His dissertation work earned him a nomination for the Sigma Xi “Excellence in Science Dissertation Award.” Since graduation, Dr. Youker has been a faculty member in both the departments of Medicine and Surgery at Baylor College of Medicine prior to joining Houston Methodist Hospital. Dr. Youker’s primary focus has been in heart failure with a particular interest in inflammation and its role in the progression of heart failure. Dr. Youker prefers a hands-on approach in the laboratory and is expert in many areas from electron microscopy to molecular biology techniques and has earned a reputation of excellence in cardiovascular immunopathology research.  He has trained over 20 postdoctoral students in laboratory methods and the scientific method of research and has published over 90 peer-reviewed articles in the cardiovascular field.  His current laboratory Postdoctoral Trainees include: Ana Sofia Cruz Solbes, MD, and Areeba Ali, MD.

Dr. Thandavarayan A. Rajarajan received his training at Niigata University of Applied Life Sciences in Niigata, Japan, where he earned a PhD in pharmaceutical science. His research identified that the development of diabetic cardiomyopathy is accelerated after disruption of 14-3-3 protein function, in part through enhancement of the Ask-1-MAPK-NF-kB signaling pathways. Dr. Thandavarayan’s PhD training was followed by a post-doctoral fellowship at the same university. He studied the effect of different antioxidants in accelerated ageing induced cardiac remodeling and determined that the inhibition of oxidative stress through inducing antioxidant enzymes by a small molecule (developed in his lab) attenuated the pathological cardiac remodeling and improvement of heart failure in accelerated ageing. Dr. Thandavarayan came to Houston Methodist Research Institute in 2014 and studied the role of Sirtuin 6 (SIRT6), a stress responsive protein deacetylase and mono-ADP ribosyltransferase, in macrophage polarization mediated regeneration in diabetic hearts and generated a unique in vitro system to study the endothelial function using Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria Syndrome (HGPS) patient-specific iPSC. These studies provide an in vitro iPSC-based model to study the pathobiology of premature vascular aging. In addition to his research, he has collaborated on several other projects. In one collaborative project, they identified that diabetes impairs efferocytosis of apoptotic cardiomyocyte, and that strategies to enhance efferocytosis might attenuate diabetes-induced impairment in inflammation resolution and cardiac repair after injury. In another collaborative study, they identified that heart failure increased miR-377 expression in the myocardium, which is detrimental to stem cell function, and transplantation of miR-377 knockdown hCD34(+) cells into ischemic myocardium promoted their angiogenic ability, attenuating left ventricular remodeling and cardiac fibrosis. In line of the interest, his research efforts are aimed at elucidating how alternative polyadenylation contributes to the development of heart failure (both right and left) using human heart tissue samples from the Houston Methodist Hospital bio-bank and sophisticated experimental models of disease. Dr. Thandavarayan’s received several awards; research funding’s including American Heart Associations and has over 95 scientific publications in international journals, including original research articles and reviews.