Hello! My name is Kamron Woods, and I am currently a rising junior pursuing a major in Microbiology, minors in Chemistry and Studio Arts, and a Conceptual Foundations of Medicine certificate. I was born in Michigan but my family and I have moved around quite a lot because my parents were in the military. Two of the most interesting places I have lived are Alaska and Germany! My fun fact is that I have an identical twin brother.
My Research: Cardiac Amyloidosis
My research project is on a peculiar heart condition called familial cardiac amyloidosis. In general, amyloid diseases are caused by the misfolding and aggregation of certain proteins. You might be aware of some common examples of amyloid diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. In particular, cardiac amyloidosis is caused by specific point mutations in the gene that codes for the protein transthyretin (TTR). These mutated proteins are more susceptible to misfolding and forming aggregates that damage the heart. These mutations are heritable and often lead to progressive and fatal outcomes in patients. New diagnostic techniques indicate a high prevalence of cardiac amyloidosis among the elderly, therefore it is crucial that physicians can diagnose and treat this disease as early as possible.
One interesting aspect of mutations in TTR is the fact that they are associated with a spectrum of clinical presentations. Some mutations are associated with either strictly cardiac or neurological symptoms, while others contain elements of both. Variants of TTR are also associated with a wide variety of ages of onset. This leads us to hypothesize that different aggregate structures are formed by each mutation.
Originally, I proposed to do a lab-based project to characterize aggregates of several TTR variants using biochemical methods. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I will be adapting my project to a literature review. I aim to analyze existing data on several of these variants to deepen my knowledge of cardiac amyloidosis and further develop my hypothesis. My mentor for this project is Dr. Yvonne Eisele, an assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, a researcher at the Aging Institute, and an expert on amyloid diseases.
I aspire to earn an MD PhD and become a physician scientist in the future! I think the Brackenridge Fellowship will help me achieve my goals by allowing me to spend an entire summer developing skills to critically analyze scientific data as well as present my research to diverse audiences. These skills will be essential for a successful career as a physician scientist.