Bernhard Kühn, M.D., F.A.C.C.

  • Mellon Scholar, Richard King Mellon Foundation Institute for Pediatric Research
  • Associate Professor of Pediatrics 
  • Director of Research in Cardiology, Department of Pediatrics

Major Lectureships and Seminars

  • “Postnatal Mammalian Cardiomyocyte Proliferation—When and How Much?” invited speaker and panelist, Weinstein Cardiovascular Development and Regeneration Conference, 2016
  • “Growth Factor Injection for the Treatment of Heart Failure Cardiovascular Outcomes,” McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine Retreat, University of Pittsburgh, 2016
  • “From current understanding to new regenerative concepts,” Invited plenary speaker, 3rd Munich Conference on Cardiac Development, 2016
  • “Genetic and Genomic Models of Polyploidy,” Invited speaker and workshop, Allied Genetics Conference, Genetics Society of America, 2016
  • Invited plenary speaker, Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute 17th International Symposium, Sydney Australia, 2016
  • “Neuregulin stimulation of Human Myocardium Reveals a Therapeutic Window,” Invited plenary speaker American Heart Association, Annual Scientific Sessions, 2016
  • “Targeting cardiomyocyte proliferation for heart regeneration,” Research Seminar, John A. Burns School of Medicine University of Hawaii at Manoa, 2016
  • “Generation of heart muscle cells in humans,” Research Seminar, Pediatric Cardiology, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, 2017
  • “Heart muscle regeneration in mammals,” Developmental & Stem Cell Biology Colloquium, Duke University, 2017
  • “Heart muscle regeneration in mammals,” Research Seminar at McAllister Heart Institute and Integrative Program for Biological and Genome Sciences, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, 2017
  •  “A transcriptional map of human heart muscle cell differentiation at the single cell level,” Single Cell User Group Meeting, University of Pittsburgh Medical School, 2017

Professional Affiliations/Society Memberships

  • American Academy of Pediatrics
  • American College of Cardiology
  • American Association for the Advancement of Science
  • Elected member, American Society of Clinical Investigation

Study Sections

  • Exploratory Grant Review Committee, Maryland Stem Cell Program
  • Special Emphasis Panel, Pathway to Independence Awards, NIH
  • Special Emphasis Panel, Program Project Parent Review Committee, NHLBI, NIH
  • Ad hoc reviewer, French Muscular Dystrophy Association
  • Cardiac Contractility, Hypertrophy and Failure Study Section, NIH
  • Grant Review Committee, Translational Research Program, Boston Children’s Hospital
  • Biomaterials and Biointerfaces Study Section, NIH
  • Special Emphasis Panel ZRG1 CVRS E, NIH
  • Ad hoc reviewer, Research Foundation Flanders (Belgium)
  • Ad hoc reviewer, Telethon Italy
  • Ad hoc reviewer, Israel Science Foundation
  • Basic Cell GE2 Study Section, American Heart Association

Education & Training

  • Doctor of medicine (PhD equivalent): Freie Universitat, Berlin, Germany - 1999
  • MD: Freie Universitat Berlin, Germany - 1997
  • Postdoctoral research, Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School - 2005
  • Clinical fellowship in Pediatric Cardiology, Boston Children’s Hospital - 2007
  • Residency in Pediatrics, Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital - 2002

Research Interests

The research laboratory that Bernhard Kühn directs has three interconnected goals: to understand the mechanisms of growth and regeneration in the heart; to provide mechanistic explanations for the huge differences in regenerative activity that exist in biology; and, drawing on the answers to these two fundamental questions, to conduct translational research for the diagnosis and treatment of heart muscle diseases. Prior to Kühn’s work, it was commonly thought that heart muscle cells, cardiomyocytes, are in irreversible proliferative arrest after birth and that myocardial regeneration cannot be increased in mammals. Physicians and scientists were skeptical that it would be possible to stimulate cardiomyocyte proliferation after birth, let alone that this mechanism would regenerate myocardium. Kühn is credited with demonstrating that the postnatal mammalian heart has cardiomyocytes that can be stimulated to divide and that this process gives rise to myocardial regeneration. Kühn has developed an approach of using extracellular factors to stimulate cardiomyocyte proliferation. A peptide of periostin, a component of the extracellular matrix, stimulates cardiomyocyte proliferation and myocardial regeneration in a rat model of myocardial infarction. This work was published in Nature Medicine in 2007. Kühn followed up this seminal study with large-animal experiments published in 2012.

Kühn has shown that administration of neuregulin, a growth factor produced by endothelial cells in the heart muscle, stimulates cardiomyocyte proliferation and myocardial regeneration in animals. This paper was published in 2009 in Cell, the most prestigious journal for basic laboratory investigations. This work is especially significant because it raises the possibility of using subcutaneous administration of recombinant neuregulin in human patients.

Kühn has shown that both factors activate the same cellular mechanism, which is proliferation of a subpopulation of mononucleated cardiomyocytes. He has identified the receptors and intracellular pathways by which periostin peptide and neuregulin act on cardiomyocytes.

Kühn has developed a cellular growth chart of the human heart. His model shows that cardiomyocyte proliferation and enlargement contribute to developmental myocardial growth between birth and adulthood. This growth model significantly advances the conventional model, which had been the basis for medical textbooks since the 1950s. Kühn published this paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2013. Kühn’s growth model of the human heart led him to make three important predictions. First, young humans may be able to regenerate heart muscle. Second, cardiomyocyte proliferation may be a mechanism that is altered in myocardial diseases. Third, it raises the possibility to stimulate cardiomyocyte proliferation therapeutically in children with the goal of promoting myocardial regeneration. Kühn’s current research efforts are based on these three advances.

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