Cell-Cell Communication

The mammalian heart is an organ comprising of heterogeneous cell types. In this project, we are exploring mechanisms by which diverse cellular populations and sub-populations communicate to maintain cardiac health and homeostasis, and how perturbed coordination, in response to stress or injury, mediates disease. This investigation has a particular focus on extracellular matrix modification, and is expanded to encompass the role of gut microbiome as a key metabolic and immunological regulator of disease.

We are adopting approaches, including single-cell RNA sequencing, gut bacterial metagenomics, in addition to extensive in vitro mouse/human primary cell culture and in vivo genetic, diet and stress hormone/surgical rodent models.


Expression profile of chondroitin sulfate–rich proteoglycan–related genes in primary human cardiac cells and THP-1–derived macrophages (Mφs) under different culture conditions. Zhao et al, 2018.

Through a greater understanding of intercellular communication and microbiome interplay, we aim to uncover and validate new therapeutic intervention strategies to prevent, and potentially reverse the course of cardiovascular disease for patients.

Targeting Chondroitin Sulfate Glycosaminoglycans to Treat Cardiac Fibrosis in Pathological Remodeling. Zhao RR, Ackers-Johnson M, Stenzig J, Chen C, Ding T, Zhou Y, Wang P, Ng SL, Li PY, Teo G, Rudd PM, Fawcett JW, Foo RSY. Circulation. 2018;137:2497-2513

A Simplified, Langendorff-Free Method for Concomitant Isolation of Viable Cardiac Myocytes and Nonmyocytes From the Adult Mouse Heart. Ackers-Johnson M, Li PY, Holmes AP, O’Brien SM, Pavlovic D, Foo RS. Circulation Research 2016;119:909–920

Langendorff-Free Isolation and Propagation of Adult Mouse Cardiomyocytes. Ackers-Johnson M, Foo RS. Methods Mol Biol. 2019;1940:193-204

Rongrong Zhao, Matthew Ackers-Johnson, Jenny Wang Xiao

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