Alay Gandhi – Mending the Heart!

About me

Hey everyone! My name is Alay and I am a rising senior here at Pitt. I am majoring in Natural Sciences with minors in Economics and Chemistry. I am on the pre-med track with the goal of becoming a physician in the future. Outside of schoolwork, I conduct research at the Liu lab at the Department of Endocrinology and Metabolism which is part of the School of Medicine. Also, I work as a care attendant at UPMC Mercy and I am involved in Pitt AMSA.

My Project: “Lets Mend the Heart: Identification of a Potential Target for Cardiac Regeneration”

My project for the Brackenridge fellowship revolves around heart disease. As you may know, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States and there are many issues associated with this disease. One of the main issues with this disease is the inability for cardiomyocytes, the cells responsible for generating a contractile force in the heart, to renew and repair themselves following a cardiac injury such as a heart attack. For example, lets say someone has a heart attack. This means that the flow of blood to the heart has partially or completely stopped. The time it takes between the blockage of that blood vessel to the treatment results in cardiomyocytes dying due to a lack of oxygen and nutrients. The problem with this is that as cardiomyocytes die, they will not be able to regenerate which can lead to decreased heart function in the future. As a result, a lot of research is being conducted to investigate ways in which we can regenerate cardiomyocytes so that heart disease can eventually be cured instead of managed.

Recently, our lab discovered a novel protein named C5x as we were looking into biomolecular pathways that regulate the cell cycle. Through preliminary data, our lab has found that this protein may play a role in cardiomyocyte cell cycle regulation and potential regeneration. As we discover more about the role of this novel protein, my project will take a deep dive into C5x’s role in cardiomyocyte proliferation and cell cycle regularity. Specifically, I will be using mouse models to determine the extent of proliferation in cardiac tissue using various populations and conditions.

The research that I will be conducting is very important as it may be an important stepping stone to potentially discovering a therapeutic for cardiac cell damage which is of great interest in the scientific community. With the tremendous support from my talented mentor Dr. Ruya Liu, I believe this project will give essential information on the function of this protein.

I am super excited to be awarded the Brackenridge fellowship and all the opportunities and connections that comes with this award. With my goal of becoming a future physician, I know the important role that research plays in diagnosing and treating a wide array of diseases. Without research, there would not be any advancement in medicine so I am glad that I can play a role in basic science research that could potentially lead to clinical solutions in the future.

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