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John Harvard's Journal

Jonathan and Christine Seidman

November-December 2002

As youngsters they were far apart—he spent much of his youth in Ghana, she grew up on Long Island—but they met at Harvard, married in 1973, and share a deep tie of the heart, in more ways than one. Jonathan G. Seidman '71, Bugher Foundation professor of cardiovascular genetics, and Christine Edry Seidman '74, professor of both medicine and genetics, co-direct a lab at the Medical School that aims to understand the causes of hereditary heart disease. The Seidmans have scientific synergy: she's an M.D. and cardiologist, he's a Ph.D. and geneticist. They study families—of up to 100 members—predisposed to inherited diseases like hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, in which the wall of the heart, normally a centimeter thick, can become threefold thicker, triggering arrhythmias and sudden death. Using blood samples, the Seidman lab looks for a segment of familial DNA that is inherited along with the disease. "If the DNA is a coast-to-coast road," says Jonathan, "you're looking for a mutation in a gene corresponding to a span of six feet." They study the heart muscle, not its arteries, and this year shared the Bristol-Myers Squibb Award for Distinguished Achievement in Cardiovascular Research. The Seidmans have three children—the oldest, Dominika, is a Harvard senior—and, despite long days in the lab, find time to sail in Maine and garden. "He likes to propel the pace of research," says Christine, known as Kricket. "I'm slow." Her spouse counters that "Kricket picks up new directions, new avenues." For their lab researchers, "The good news is that you'll get two pieces of advice," Jonathan says. "The bad news is that you'll get two pieces of advice." And despite the Seidmans' closeness, all is not unity, he adds: "Our offices are four inches apart."