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VCU Pauley Heart Center

Physicians and staff

Edward J. Lesnefsky, Jr., MD


Dr. Lesnefsky received his undergraduate degree, with highest honors, from the University of Notre Dame and went on to graduate first in his medical school class from the University of Wisconsin.  He did his internal medicine internship and residency at University of Virginia Hospital, and completed clinical and research fellowships in Cardiovascular Diseases at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center.

Prior to joining Pauley Heart Center in 2008 as Professor of Internal Medicine, Cardiology, Dr. Lesnefsky was Professor of Medicine at Case Western Reserve University and served as Chief of the Cardiology Section at Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center.

At Pauley Heart Center, Dr. Lesnefsky works primarily at McGuire V.A. Medical Center where he is Chief of Cardiology, but his activities include administration, basic research and clinical cardiology at both McGuire VA Hospital and at VCU Medical Center.

Dr. Lesnefsky’s current research interests involve the study of the mechanisms of myocardial cell death during heart attacks (ischemia) and their treatment (reperfusion).  The focus of his laboratory is the study of the role mitochondria in the progression of cardiac cell death during ischemia and reperfusion.  Cardiac mitochondria normally function as the powerhouses of the cardiac cell, metabolizing fuels to provide energy for the heart.  However, during ischemia and reperfusion, cardiac mitochondria shift their role and become agents of cardiac injury and cell death.  Dr. Lesnefsky’s laboratory is actively studying the biochemical mechanisms that lead to this maladaptive transition.  They found in experimental models that blockade of mitochondrial function during ischemia, when mitochondrial metabolism leads to cell death, can actually improve functional recovery and decrease cardiac injury.  The laboratory has a particular interest in the application of this work to the elderly heart in the setting of heart attacks.  The elderly are a high risk group for adverse outcomes following myocardial infarction because the aged heart is inherently more susceptible to injury during ischemia and reperfusion.  His laboratory studies the mechanisms whereby age-related and ischemia-induced defects in mitochondrial metabolism augment injury during heart attacks in the aged heart.  In initial experimental studies, Dr. Lesnefsky’s laboratory has found that approaches to improve aging-related defects in mitochondria before ischemia improves cardiac recovery.  Modulation of age-related and ischemia-induced defects in mitochondrial metabolism holds the potential to reduce the extent of cardiac damage and improve the outcome of heart attacks in the high risk elderly patient.

His research has attracted significant external funding; over the past decade he has been principal investigator, co-investigator or preceptor on over 30 federal or privately funded research grants.

His teaching activities included invited scientific and educational presentations at dozens of medical schools and professional conferences throughout the United States and abroad.  In addition, he has mentored and given scientific support to 11 post-doctoral trainees.

Dr. Lesnefsky is an ad hoc reviewer for over 20 national and international medical and scientific journals.  He served on the editorial board of the Journal of Molecular and Cellular Cardiology from 2000-2007 and is author or co-author over 175 journal articles and abstracts, as well as several book chapters. He also has served on study sections for the National Institutes of Health, American Heart Association and the Department of Veteran Affairs.

Dr. Lesnefsky is a fellow of the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association Council on Basic Cardiovascular Sciences, as well as a member of numerous professional societies, including the International Society for Heart Research, the American Federation of Clinical Research and the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.


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Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center
School of Medicine
VCU Health Pauley Heart Center
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