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Elena Aikawa, Ph.D.

Brigham and Women's Hospital
Harvard Medical School


First row: Jessica Ruiz, Elena Aikawa, Whitney Irvin, Sasha Singh (Director of Proteomics Lab), Payal Vyas. Second row: Brett Pieper, Jona Krohn, Josh Hutcheson, Tan Pham, Claudia Goettsch, Max Rogers, Yang Lei, Jung Choi, Shinsuke Ito, Manuel Salinas.

Primary Research:

Dr. Elena Aikawa is Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. She is also Principle Investigator at the Center for Excellence in Vascular Biology in the Harvard Medical School's New Research Building (NRB Lab) and Director of the Vascular Biology Program at the Center for Interdisciplinary Sciences (CICS) at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. Both labs are situated in the heart of Boston's highly esteemed Longwood Medical Area. CICS is on the 17th floor of the Center for Life Science Boston, offering dramatic 3600 views of the downtown Boston, suburban areas, Charles River, and Atlantic Ocean. CICS is a joint venture between Brigham and Women's Hospital and Kowa Pharmaceuticals, focusing on target discovery and drug development. We enjoy a wide range of cutting-edge technologies such as proteomics, and network analyses of complex diseases. Her NRB Lab has been supported by the two NIH R01 grants, an American Heart Association (AHA) Grant-In-Aid, and Harvard Catalyst to investigate the mechanisms of arterial and heart valve calcification.

Dr. Aikawa's primary research focuses on the development of new therapies to prevent, treat and cure calcific aortic valve stenosis, a disease that currently has no treatment options except invasive valve replacement. Using molecular imaging, she has pioneered inflammation-dependent mechanisms of cardiac valve calcification, and has advocated for the importance of imaging of early-stage subclinical calcific aortic valve disease. Her group demonstrated the involvement of macrophage-derived matrix vesicles in the formation of microcalcifications in atherosclerotic plaques, establishing a new and alternative pathway of vascular calcification in addition to smooth muscle cell transformation into osteogenic cells. Dr. Aikawa's current studies focus on the genesis and growth of extracellular vesicle-derived cardiovascular microcalcificaitons.

Dr. Aikawa is a member of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) Working Group on Calcific Aortic Valve Stenosis and the Alliance of Investigators on Calcific Aortic Valve Disease. She holds editorial positions at Circulation Research, Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology, PLoS ONE, and Journal of Extracellular Vesicles. Dr. Aikawa has delivered more than 90 invited presentations, keynote lectures, and cardiovascular grand rounds, and authored more than 140 manuscripts on cardiovascular pathobiology.

In addition to her strong interest in research, Dr. Aikawa also enjoys educating and mentoring young scientists. Throughout her career, she has trained a number of research fellows, and medical school and PhD students. In addition, she remains committed to advancing the careers of women in science and medicine. At the Brigham and Women's Hospital, she co-founded the Committee for Internationally Trained Women Faculty in 2004 and founded the annual Women in Medicine and Science Symposium in 2012. Dr. Aikawa is Fellow of the AHA and a member of the Women's Leadership Committee of AHA's Council on Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology.

To learn more about Dr. Aikawa and her work, visit the CICS website at https://cics.partners.org or Aikawa-Aikawa Lab webpage at http://aikawalabs.bwh.harvard.edu

Recent Publications:

  1. New SEP, Goettsch C, Aikawa M, Marchini JF, Shibasaki M, Yabusaki K, Libby P, Shanahan CM, Croce K, Aikawa E. Macrophage-derived matrix vesicles: An alternative novel mechanism for microcalcification in atherosclerotic plaques. Circulation Research 2013,113;72-77
  2. New SEP, Aikawa E. The Role of Extracellular Vesicles in De Novo Mineralization: An Additional Novel Mechanism of Cardiovascular Calcification. ATVB 2013;33;1753-58
  3. Goettsch C, Hutcheson JD, Aikawa E. MicroRNA in cardiovascular calcification: Focus on targets and extracellular vesicle delivery mechanisms. Circulation Research 2013;122:1073-84
  4. Hutcheson JD, Goettsch C, Pham T, Iwashita M, Aikawa M, Singh SA, Aikawa E. Enrichment of calcifying extracellular vesicles using density-based ultracentrifugation protocol. J Extracell Ves2014;3:25129
  5. Hutcheson J, Aikawa E, Merryman D. Potential drug targets for calcific aortic valve disease. Nature Reviews Cardiology 2014; 11(4):218-31
  6. Hutcheson JD, Maldonado N, Aikawa E. Small entities with large impact: Microcalcifications and atherosclerotic plaque vulnerability. Curr Opin Lipidol 2014; 25:327-332
  7. Itou T, Maldonado N, Yamada I, Goettsch C, Matsumoto J, Aikawa M, Singh S, Aikawa E. Cystathionine gamma-lyase accelerates osteoclast differentiation: Identification of a novel regulator of osteoclastogenesis by proteomic analysis. ATVB, 2014;34:626-34 (Cover Image; Manuscript was featured in Editorial in the same issue; Editor's Pick)
  8. Yutzey KE, Demer LL, Body SC, Huggins GS, Towler DA, Giacheli CM, Hofmann-Bowman MA, Mortlock DP, Rogers MB, Sadeghi MM, Aikawa E. Calcific Aortic Valve Disease: A consensus summary from the Alliance of Investigators on Calcific Aortic Valve Disease. ATVB 2014;34:2387-2393
  9. Hjortnaes J, Camci-Unal G, Hutcheson JD, Jung SM, Schoen FJ, Kluin J, Khademhisseini A, Aikawa E. Directing valvular interstitial cell myofibroblast-like differentiation in a hybrid hydrogel platform.Advanced Healthcare Materials, 2015;4:121-30
  10. Figueiredo JL, Aikawa M, Zheng C, Aaron J, Lax L, Libby P, de Lima Filho JL, Gruener S, Fingerle J, Haap W, Hartmann G, Aikawa E. Selective cathepsin S inhibition attenuates atherosclerosis in apolipoprotein E-deficient mice with chronic renal disease. Am J Pathol,  2015;185:1156-66

Lab Members:
Vascular Biology Program (CICS)
Elena Aikawa (Director)
Jung Choi (Research Assistant)
Shinsuke Ito (Research Fellow)
Claudia Goettsch (Research Fellow)
Shinji Goto (Research Fellow)
Sumihiko Hagita (Research Fellow)
Joshua Hutcheson (Research Fellow)
Masaya Iwashita (Research Fellow)
Yang Lei (Research Fellow)
Tan Pham (Research Assistant)
Brett Pieper (Research Assistant)
Audrey Reynolds (Undergraduate Student)
Maximillian Rogers (Research Fellow)
Payal Vyas (Research Fellow)

Valve Calcification (NRB Lab)
Elena Aikawa (PI)
Whitney S. Irvin (Research Assistant, Lab Manager)
Jona Krohn (Medical School Student)
Jessica Ruiz (Medical School Student)
Manuel Salinas (Research Fellow)

Laboratory Motto:
"To think out of the box"