Associate Professor of Medicine and Pharmacology
Director, Todd and Karen Wanek Family Program for Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome
Medical Director, Regenerative Medicine Consult ServiceMayo Clinic
Dr. Nelson earned his PhD and MD from the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His residency and fellowship work was done at Mayo Clinic in Rochester. Dr. Nelson’s research work is focused on cardiovascular regeneration using bioengineered stem cells to improve the ability to discover, diagnose, and ultimately treat mechanisms of degenerative diseases such as cardiomyopathy. Specifically, his research group starts with biopsy samples from patients with severe forms of heart disease and generates induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells to create a model system for that patient’s disease in the laboratory. This bioengineered patient-specific sample allows detailed examination of the differences between samples obtained from genetically similar or genetically diverse cohorts with heart disease to determine the molecular underpinning of stress intolerance. His lab looks to identify better ways to predict the onset and progression of genetic disease within the cell culture model system in the laboratory without the need for probing the patient beyond the initial tissue collection. Recently, they discovered the functional impact nuclear reprogramming has on mitochondrial function. Notably, patient-specific iPS cells have been produced from patients with mitochondrial disease causing mutations leading to heteroplasmy in the mitochondrial DNA. Building on expertise of embryology and cardiac developmental biology to study lineage specific defects in pluripotent stem cells, his research program is striving to translate innovative applications based on iPS technology into clinical applications in human diseases involving mitochondrial defects. This individualized platform allows for pharmacological-based screening efforts to identify novel therapeutic targets using patient-specific stem cell and differentiated derivatives. Dr. Nelson has published over 60 journal articles.