Physician-scientist in cardiology J. Travis Hinson, M.D., joins JAX Genomic Medicine and UConn Health
By Joyce Peterson
Farmington, Conn. – J. Travis Hinson, M.D., a board-certified cardiologist and researcher interested in bringing an interdisciplinary approach to the study of heart muscle diseases, will join the faculties of The Jackson Laboratory (JAX) for Genomic Medicine and UConn Health on January 22, 2016.
Hinson comes to JAX and UConn Health from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, a Harvard Medical School teaching affiliate, where he is an Instructor in Cardiovascular Medicine and an Associate Physician treating patients with inherited forms of cardiovascular diseases, especially hypertrophic and dilated cardiomyopathies.
“I’m excited to be joining The Jackson Laboratory,” Hinson says, “with its cutting-edge vision that’s perfectly aligned with my interests in studying cardiovascular diseases on a platform of human genetics.” He says he was attracted to “the unique opportunity to interact and collaborate with a group of outstanding geneticists who are bringing together the latest technologies and complementary expertise” to study the complex genetics of human diseases.
Charles Lee, Ph.D., professor and scientific director at JAX Genomic Medicine, comments, “Travis is an outstanding researcher who already has a record of moving high impact research discoveries to the patient using a team-science model. This is precisely what we are looking for in human genetics researchers joining JAX Genomic Medicine.”
Andrew Agwunobi, M.D., M.B.A., interim executive vice president for health affairs at UConn Health, says, “We are thrilled that Dr. Hinson is bringing his clinical and research expertise in the field of translational cardiovascular medicine to UConn Health and The Jackson Laboratory.”
Hinson studies the genetics of cardiomyopathies, diseases of the heart muscle that can lead to heart failure and ultimately death. He engineers heart-like structures—“small beating tissues”—with cells containing specific genetic mutations. To create these so-called biomimetic microtissues, Hinson “instructs” pluripotent stem cells, derived from a patient’s blood cells or by genome editing technology, to become heart cells for in vitro studies. Hinson hopes that results of these studies may translate to new therapeutic opportunities for his patients.
The joint appointment with UConn Health and JAX is important, Hinson says, “because it allows me to build a clinical medicine practice around cardiovascular genetics. For example, I could see a patient in my clinic with a genetic cardiomyopathy, and actually study his or her disease at JAX using the cardiac microtissues, then ideally translate my research back to the patient in the form of clinical trials of new drugs. This ‘bedside-to-bench-to-bedside’ approach is the dream situation for any physician-scientist.”
Bruce T. Liang, M.D., dean of UConn School of Medicine and director of the Pat and Jim Calhoun Cardiology Center at UConn Health says, “We are pleased to have recruited Dr. Hinson. He is a stellar physician-scientist with clinical and translational research expertise in cardiovascular genetics. His research will further expand our knowledge of the genetic components of heart diseases and help develop novel and promising therapies for patients affected by these devastating diseases in Connecticut and beyond.”
As the second joint faculty member, Hinson plans to focus on combining stem cell technology and biomimetic microtissues to establish human models for two of the most common genetic disorders of the myocardium: dilated and hypertrophic cardiomyopathies.
Hinson earned his M.D. from Harvard Medical School in 2007, after earning a B.S. in Chemistry from the University of Pennsylvania.
JAX Genomic Medicine opened in October 2014 on the campus of UConn Health. Collaborative initiatives include the new Center for Single Cell Genomics. The first joint JAX-UConn faculty appointment was Reinhard Laubenbacher, Ph.D.
The Jackson Laboratory is an independent, nonprofit biomedical research institution and National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center. It employs over 1,700 staff, and its mission is to discover precise genomic solutions for disease and empower the global biomedical community in the shared quest to improve human health.
UConn Health is an integrated academic medical center based in Farmington, Conn., home to the School of Medicine, School of Dental Medicine, John Dempsey Hospital, UConn Medical Group, UConn Health Partners, University Dentists and a thriving research enterprise. With more than 5,000 employees, UConn Health is a major economic driver in the region, generating nearly $1 billion annually in gross state product. It is closely linked with the University of Connecticut’s main campus in Storrs through multiple, cross-campus academic projects.