Flordeliza S. Villanueva, MD

Dr. Flordeliza Villanueva received her BA (summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa) and MD (Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Society) from Boston University. She completed her internal medicine residency at Duke University and cardiology clinical fellowship at the University of Virginia. In 1992, she joined the faculty at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, where she is currently Professor of Medicine in the Division of Cardiology and Vice Chair for Pre-Clinical Research of the Department of Medicine.

In the clinical arena, Dr. Villanueva is the Director of Non-Invasive Cardiac Imaging at the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute, overseeing the clinical imaging programs in Echocardiography, Nuclear Cardiology, and Cardiac Magnetic Resonance. She has focused her research on the development of ultrasound contrast agents (microbubbles) for assessment of the microcirculation, ultrasound molecular imaging, and ultrasound-mediated therapeutics.

Dr. Villanueva is also the Director of the Center for Ultrasound Molecular Imaging and Therapeutics, a multidisciplinary translational research facility espousing the philosophy that moving technologies from pre-clinical status to the bedside requires strong traditional science and engineering, married to strong entrepreneurship. Her laboratory was the first to demonstrate that molecularly targeted microbubbles bind to biological surfaces overexpressing molecular targets, ultimately allowing ultrasonic imaging of disease/function-specific epitopes in vivo. Her group has led the study of how unique acoustic behaviors of microbubbles can be harnessed to therapeutic effect, such as drug/gene delivery or sonothrombolysis. She led the development of the UPMC Cam, an ultra-high speed microscopy imaging system capable of acquiring images at up to 25 million frames per second in either bright-field or fluorescence modes. Such a system allows the direct visualization of the mechanics of a single oscillating microbubble and the dynamics of a microbubble’s interaction with biological cells. This unique tool will help us better understand microbubble dynamics and mechanisms of microbubble mediated bioeffects, and improve their design for specific applications.

In broad terms, Dr. Villanueva’s research seeks to apply principles of cardiac ultrasound and ultrasound contrast agents (microbubbles) to the study of coronary physiology, imaging of molecular markers of heart disease, and therapeutic applications derived from unique ultrasound-microbubble interactions. Her research pursuits have three discrete but related foci:

  • The first emphasizes the development and validation of new echocardiographic approaches to study the microcirculation based on novel and inherent properties of microbubble ultrasound agents.
  • The second concerns the use of these validated approaches to answer basic physiologic questions concerning the coronary microcirculation in ischemic heart disease or other states affecting myocardial perfusion.
  • The third investigates the use of ultrasound contrast agents for therapeutics of cardiovascular diseases and cancer.

Within this framework, Dr. Villanueva’s research spans in vitro and ex vivo experimental models, in vivo animal studies, and clinical trials in human populations. The research activities are performed within the Center for Ultrasound Molecular Imaging and Therapeutics.

Dr. Villanueva received the Feigenbaum Award from the American Society of Echocardiography, the highest award given to a young investigator in echocardiography.  She was also elected a Fellow in the American Society for Clinical Investigation (2004), a Fellow in the Association of University Cardiologists (2008), to the American Society for Clinical Investigation (2004), and to the Association of University Cardiologists (2008).  She is an Established Investigator of the American Heart Association and recipient of the American Heart Association Pulse of Pittsburgh Award.

View a list of Dr. Villanueva’s publications here or here.