My research has focused on understanding genetic interactions associated with diseases, and elucidating the molecular mechanisms affected by genetic changes that leads to such diseases. For my graduate work, I identified genetic pathways associated with autism spectrum disorder, and established an in-vivo model for studying autism related genes in the neurons of C. elegans. For my postdoctoral work, I am using my experience in genetics to study the complexities of heart regeneration in mammals.
Heart failure is a detrimental condition that affects over 6 million Americans each year, and 1 in 5 people diagnosed with heart failure die within the first year. Many factors contribute to the heart’s ability to recover after injury. Genetics is likely a key contributor to the regenerative capabilities of the heart. Dr. Patterson’s previous work identified a subtype of cardiomyocytes known as mononuclear diploid cardiomyocytes (MNDCMs), and their increased presence in heart tissue is indicative of regenerative capacity. Through Dr. Patterson’s genome-wide association studies in the mouse diversity panel, we identified candidate genes that could contribute to the proliferation of MNDCMs, and therefore increased heart regeneration after injury. By studying mouse hearts in their native state and their recovery after heart injury, my work aims to understand the contribution of these genes to the proliferation of MNDCMs and the subsequent regenerative capacity of the hearts. I also am performing experiments to elucidate the molecular mechanism by which the gene products act to influence the cell cycle of cardiomyocytes. By understanding the complex genetics inherent to heart regeneration, we can work towards precision/personalized medicine to treat patients based on their unique genetic background.