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Heart research from the heart

People behind the science

Date: March 26, 2017
Weizmann Magazine Vol. 11

When International Board member Dan Shapiro (pictured above) passed away last year, his wife Ellen wanted to do something special to memorialize him.

Dan had died of heart failure, and had suffered for many years with heart disease and related problems. Ellen, with her three sons, established a fund in Dan’s memory at the Weizmann Institute, the Daniel S. Shapiro Cardiovascular Research Fund.

The fund supports the joint research of Prof. Eldad Tzahor of the Department of Molecular Cell Biology and Dr. Karina Yaniv of the Department of Biological Regulation. The duo is collaborating on research on the vascular system—the vessels and tissues that circulate fluids, including blood, through the body.

In a developing embryo, formation of the vascular system happens early on, guided by a complex set of molecular signals. Prof. Tzahor and Dr. Yaniv’s research grew out of the fact that, in many cases, the same signals involved in embryonic blood vessel formation are re-activated in adulthood during cardiovascular disease. By examining earlystage vascular development, the scientists are identifying key molecular “triggers” that contribute to disease onset. By doing so, they are identifying new targets for drug development, as well as new strategies for clinical treatment.

Dan was a lifelong leader in the Jewish community, and in the last decade, he had come to know and love the Weizmann Institute. He had been an active member of the Board, serving also on its Honors and Executive committees. He was particularly keen on learning as much as he could about neuroscience, and, because of his own health issues, followed developments in cardiovascular research.

Within weeks, the Shapiros’ friends and colleagues in the UK and US—the Shapiros are Americans who resided in London in recent years—had given generously to the fund, more than doubling expectations, and Dan’s law firm offered a major portion of the sum. “We were humbled by the generosity of our friends and grateful to be able to support this area of research, which Dan would have been proud to support,” says Mrs. Shapiro.