Joseph C. Wu, MD, Ph.D.

AIMBE College of Fellows Class of 2018
For outstanding contributions towards using stem cells for disease modeling, drug screening, clinical trial in a dish, and precision medicine.

Researchers solve mystery of how statins improve blood vessel health

Via Stanford Medicine | May 8, 2023

Statins designed to lower cholesterol have long been noted to work in mysterious ways to improve other aspects of cardiovascular health. A Stanford Medicine-led study uncovers how they do it.

Using new genetic tools to study statins in human cells and mice, Stanford Medicine researchers and collaborators have uncovered how the cholesterol-lowering drugs protect the cells that line blood vessels.

The findings provide new insight into statins’ curiously wide-ranging benefits, for conditions ranging from arteriosclerosis to diabetes, that have long been observed in the clinic… Continue reading.

Diabetes drug may reduce coronary artery disease in those with ‘Asian glow’

Via Stanford Medicine | January 31, 2023

A genetic variant that inhibits alcohol metabolism harms blood vessel cells, but an antidiabetic medication may mitigate the harm, Stanford Medicine-led research has found.

About a third of people of East Asian descent have a genetic variant that leads to “Asian glow,” a distinctive red flushing that appears after drinking alcohol. It’s due to the body’s inability to rid itself of acetaldehyde, a toxic byproduct of metabolizing alcohol.

The variant causes more harm than embarrassment at a cocktail party. Deficiency in aldehyde dehydrogenase, an enzyme that converts acetaldehyde into acetate (which the body harmlessly excretes) significantly increases the risk of coronary artery disease for the world’s estimated 540 million people who carry the variant, especially for those who drink… Continue reading.

Marijuana linked to heart disease; supplement may mitigate risk, researchers report

Via Stanford Medicine | April 29, 2022

People who use marijuana have an increased risk of heart disease and heart attack, according to a large study led by researchers at Stanford Medicine.

The study also showed that the psychoactive component of the drug, known as THC, causes inflammation in endothelial cells that line the interior of blood vessels, as well as atherosclerosis in laboratory mice.

The inflammation and atherosclerosis can be blocked by a small molecule called genistein that occurs naturally in soy and fava beans, the researchers found. Because genistein has limited brain penetration, it doesn’t inhibit THC’s ability to stimulate appetite, dull pain and tamp down nausea — characteristics vital to medicinal marijuana users… Continue reading.

Clinical trial in a dish: A novel strategy for drug development in heart disease

Via Medical Xpress | July 30, 2020

Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) is a disease of the heart muscle that results in decreased function of the left ventricle, the main pumping chamber. This decreases the heart’s ability to pump blood, which can lead to irregular heartbeats (arrhythmias), blood clots, heart failure, or sudden cardiac death. While there are several contributing factors to the development of DCM, it is known that up to one-third inherit it from their parents: familial DCM. Familial DCM is known to be caused by changes in different genes, the most common being variants (mutations) in the gene that encodes what is known as lamin A and C (LMNA); DCM caused by these variants is usually referred to as cardiolaminopathies. Although LMNA-associated DCM (or cardiolaminopathy) accounts for 6% of all familial cases, there are no targeted drug to prevent onset or progression of the disease, and the mechanisms that result in the cardiolaminopathy are not known… Continue reading.

National Academy of Medicine Elects 100 New Members

Via National Academy of Medicine | October 21, 2019

The National Academy of Medicine (NAM) today announced the election of 90 regular members and 10 international members during its annual meeting. Election to the Academy is considered one of the highest honors in the fields of health and medicine and recognizes individuals who have demonstrated outstanding professional achievement and commitment to service.

“These newly elected members represent the most exceptional scholars and leaders whose remarkable work has advanced science, medicine, and health in the U.S. and around the globe,” said National Academy of Medicine President Victor J. Dzau. “Their expertise will be vital to addressing today’s most pressing health and scientific challenges and informing the future of health and medicine for the benefit of us all. I am honored to welcome these esteemed individuals to the National Academy of Medicine.”

Joseph C. Wu, M.D., Simon H. Stertzer Professor of Medicine and Radiology and director, Stanford Cardiovascular Institute, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, Calif. For seminal contributions and pioneer breakthroughs in the areas of cardiovascular medicine and imaging… Continue reading.

More Proof: E-Cigarettes Are Not Healthy

Via Health Central | May 28, 2019

You may have heard e-cigarettes are better for you than traditional cigarettes—and to some extent, that’s true: They contain fewer toxic chemicals than regular smokes, according to Hopkins Medicine. But that doesn’t mean e-cigarettes are actually healthy.

And now there’s a new reason to avoid them: The flavoring (called “e-liquid”) may up your risk of heart disease, according to a new study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine found that e-liquids harm the endothelial cells that line blood vessels and the heart. Along with causing increased DNA damage and cell death, the liquids also appear to interfere with blood vessel growth.

The study tested six popular flavors: tobacco, menthol, fruit, sweet tobacco with caramel and vanilla, sweet butterscotch, and cinnamon. Menthol and cinnamon were found to be the most harmful.

“Until now, we had no data about how these e-liquids affect human endothelial cells,” said senior study author Joseph Wu, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Stanford Cardiovascular Institute and professor of cardiovascular medicine and of radiology. “This study clearly shows that e-cigarettes are not a safe alternative to traditional cigarettes. When we exposed the cells to six different flavors of e-liquid with varying levels of nicotine, we saw significant damage… Continue reading.

Lab-grown heart cells reveal secrets of “kissing bug” disease

Via Stanford University | May 21, 2019

You may have heard a buzz of news recently about the spread of the so-called “kissing bug” throughout the United States. Bloodsuckers that prefer to bite sleeping people around the mouth and eyes, the insect is undeniably ugly (you can thank me later for not sharing a picture — click here if you’d like to take a gander). But more importantly, they can spread a parasite to humans that causes Chagas disease.

People infected with the parasite, called Trypanosoma cruzi, develop (among other symptoms) fever, aches, fatigue, diarrhea and vomiting. About 30 percent of those infected go on to develop chronic Chagas disease, which can cause long-term health complications including heart failure and digestive problems. Varieties of the bug are found in 28 states, mostly in the southern parts of the country. It is widespread in South America, and Chagas disease is estimated to contribute to more than 10,000 deaths each year.

Now cardiologist and stem cell researcher Joseph Wu, MD, PhD, together with visiting scholar Adriana Bozzi, PhD, have used lab-grown heart muscle cells called cardiomyocytes to investigate at a cellular level how the infection spread by the bugs affects cardiac function. They published their findings recently in Stem Cell Reports… Continue reading.

Drug could alleviate side effects of chemo for breast cancer patients

Via Stanford University | March 29, 2019

Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine have demonstrated a method of forecasting which breast cancer patients will suffer heart problems from a commonly used chemotherapy drug.

The researchers also found that a class of medications already approved by the Food and Drug Administration may mitigate these side effects.

“We could use this method to find out who’s going to develop chemo-related toxicity and who’s not,” said Joseph Wu, MD, PhD, professor of cardiovascular medicine and of radiology and director of the Stanford Cardiovascular Institute. “And now we have an idea about the cardioprotective medications we can give them… Continue reading.

Study solves mystery of genetic-test results for patient with suspected heart condition

Via Stanford Medicine | June 26, 2018

Although DNA testing is becoming increasingly quick, cheap and easy to perform, the results are sometimes ambiguous: Gene mutations called “variants of uncertain significance” can create uncertainty about a patient’s risk for a disease.

“This is a really big problem,” said Joseph Wu, MD, PhD, professor of cardiovascular medicine and of radiology at the Stanford University School of Medicine. “If someone tells me I have a genetic variant that could cause sudden cardiac death, I’m going to be very scared. The result could be a lifetime of unnecessary worry for a patient when, in fact, the variant may be completely benign.”

Now, Wu and a team of researchers have developed a technique that could shed light on the significance of such variants. In a new paper, they discuss how they used advanced genetic-editing tools and stem cell technology to determine whether a 39-year-old patient with one of these mysterious mutations was at increased risk for a heart-rhythm condition called long QT syndrome, which can cause erratic heartbeats, fainting and sudden cardiac death… Continue reading.

Scientists edit heart muscle gene in stem cells, may be able to predict risk

Via CNN | June 18, 2018

In our human genome, there are many elusive genetic variants related to medical conditions, but the impact of these variants to actually cause a disease has not been conclusively determined — or ruled out.
In other words, the impact certain variants could have on your health remains a guessing game.
But a new study involving the gene-editing tool CRISPR could change that.

The study, published in the journal Circulation on Monday, demonstrates for the first time how pairing CRISPR with induced pluripotent stem cell technology could be used to determine the risk of a genetic variant for cardiovascular disease… Continue reading.

Dr. Joseph Wu Inducted into Medical and Biological Engineering Elite

Via AIMBE | April 10, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) has announced the induction of Joseph C. Wu, MD, Ph.D., Simon H. Stertzer Endowed Professor of Medicine & Radiology; Director, Stanford Cardiovascular Institute, Department of Medicine (Division of Cardiology) & Radiology, Stanford University School of Medicine, to its College of Fellows. Dr. Wu was nominated, reviewed, and elected by peers and members of the College of Fellows for outstanding contributions towards using stem cells for disease modeling, drug screening, clinical trial in a dish, and precision medicine.