In recognition that a premier Cardiothoracic Surgery program requires a vibrant academic and research component, Dr. Fred A. Crawford, then Chief of the Division, began a research initiative in 1985. A research program focused upon cardiac surgery at MUSC was not without precedence, since 40 years earlier Dr. Horace B. Smithy developed a mitral valvulotome in the animal laboratory where this work resulted in one of the first surgical procedures to relieve mitral stenosis in patients. Interestingly, the 500 sq ft laboratory opened in 1985 in the same research building originally occupied by Dr. Smithy. To head up this research initiative, Dr. Crawford appointed Francis G. Spinale, MD, PhD. Consistent with historical precedence, the initial studies focused upon myocardial structure and function with mitral valve regurgitation and valve replacement. The development of methods to measure right ventricular function in congenital heart malformations and in ischemic heart disease soon followed. However, it was the development of methods to measure isolated cardiac myocyte mechanics and the effects of myocardial protection solutions which resulted in the first NIH sponsored study. The research laboratories expanded to approximately 1,200 sq ft and provided a fertile environment for surgery residents and fellows. Indeed, residents engaged in CT Surgery research garnered multiple national honors which included the Nina Braunwald Award in CT Surgery, the Southern Thoracic Surgery Directors Award, American Heart Association Vivien Thomas Young Investigator Award, among others. In 1995, the research laboratory had several NIH grants and brought in another full time PhD scientist, Rupak Mukherjee, PhD. The research directions expanded into the mechanisms of cardiovascular remodeling with a particular emphasis on how a unique family of enzymes, the matrix metalloproteinases, contribute to changes in size and shape of the heart. The discovery of this unique proteolytic system in the human myocardium catapulted the laboratory to national and international prominence. With a significant research interest in how this proteolytic pathway can promulgate thoracic aortic aneurysms, John S. Ikonomidis, MD, PhD joined the CT Surgery group in 2000. Dr Ikonomidis quickly secured NIH funding for these studies and recruited Jeffrey A. Jones, PhD to join the CT research program to augment new directions in cell signaling and gene therapy. Most recently, Minoo Kavarana, MD joined the CT Surgery group and has significantly expanded the research focus on surgical repairs of congenital heart disease. Today, Dr. Ikonomidis, Chief of the Cardiothoracic Surgical Division, continuously works to support overall mission of the CT Surgery Research Program which has not changed since 1985: to provide an environment in which basic research discoveries can be readily translated into relevant pre-clinical animal models, directly translated into initial human based studies, or investigator initiated clinical trials. This research initiative has resulted in over 500 peer reviewed publications, 10 patents and continuous NIH funding for almost 2 decades. In addition to the 5 faculty members within CT Surgery, this research program engages in a collaborative inter-departmental structure (Anesthesiology, Medicine, Radiology) with the thematic focus on relevance to CT Surgery. This research program now occupies 3,000 sq ft in a state of the art research facility directly across from the newly constructed Ashley River Tower with 15 staff members and approximately 4 million dollars in extramural research support.