Research Expertise & Professional Interests
Francesca Seta, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the Vascular Biology Section at the Boston University School of Medicine. Dr Seta’s laboratory studies the basic mechanisms of vascular diseases, with an emphasis on the biology of the vascular smooth muscle. Her current research seeks to understand the molecular mechanisms of arterial stiffening and aortic aneurysms/dissections, two degenerative vascular conditions for which there are no therapies.
Hardening of elastic arteries is an age- and obesity-related maladaptive remodeling which occurs independently of atherosclerosis but comparably harmful to the cardiovascular system. Dr Seta identified the transcription factor Bcl11b, nearby a genetic locus with genome-wide association with increased arterial stiffness, as a crucial regulator of vascular smooth muscle contractile phenotype and arterial functional integrity. In addition, her ongoing projects focus on the role of the lysine deacetylase sirtuin-1, known as the “longevity” gene and a molecular target of caloric restriction, in vascular homeostasis. She demonstrated that sirtuin-1 genetic overexpression or pharmacological activation exerts beneficial anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory effects in the aortic wall, protecting against obesity-induced arterial stiffness and cardiac diastolic dysfunction. On the opposite, lack of sirtuin-1 in vascular smooth muscle cause aortic dissection in mice treated with angiotensin II. Current studies are examining the therapeutic potential of sirtuin-1 against aortic aneurysms in a mouse model of Marfan’s syndrome, a condition characterized by aortic enlargements at risk of rupture or dissection. Dr Seta's laboratory employs state-of-the art in vivo, ex vivo and in vitro approaches, including high-resolution ultrasound echocardiography, radiotelemetry, high-fidelity pressure catheters and pressurized myography, to assess pulse wave velocity, the gold standard measure of arterial stiffness; active and passive properties of blood vessels; imaging and characterization of aortic aneurysms. The goal is to identify molecular targets to develop novel translational therapies that can prevent and treat dreadful vascular diseases.
Research interests: Arterial Stiffness, Aortic Aneurysm/Dissection, Cardiovascular Physiology, Cardiovascular Disease Related to Metabolic Syndrome, Hypertension, Oxidative Stress, Pulmonary Hypertension, Vascular Biology, and Vascular Diseases.