CURF Introduction: Examining NOTCH1 mutations and its effects in Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome

Hello everyone and welcome to my first blog post! My name is Shourya Mukherjee, and I am a senior pursuing a bachelors in Molecular Biology on the Biochemistry track with minors in Chemistry and Music. A fun fact about me is I enjoy learning about world music and exploring the realm of ethnomusicology a lot. Most of the classes I’ve taken at Pitt in the music department focus on learning the culture of different areas and how that’s influenced the music of the area.

For my CURF project I have been working with Dr. Anita Saraf’s lab located in the Rangos Research Center at UPMC Children’s Hospital. I first started in this lab in May of last year as I had received a UPMC research fellowship which paired me with Dr. Saraf because we had similar research interests.

My lab focuses on a specific congenital heart disorder (CHD) known as Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS). HLHS is associated with the closure of the mitral valve which significantly reduces blood flow from the heart to the body and is also associated with underdevelopment of the left ventricle making this one of the highest mortality rates of all CHDs. Currently no medication is available to treat HLHS, the only method is to perform surgery or heart transplant on these patients. It has been found that many patients who have HLHS also have mutations within a NOTCH1 gene. A fully functional of this gene is needed during early stages of embryonic development to allow for proper differentiation into cardiomyocytes. We hypothesize that loss of function in NOTCH1 reduces proliferation rate of cells prior to differentiation into cardiomyocytes, leading to the underdevelopment of the left ventricle. I feel the work we do is important as it allows us to expand on existing practices for HLHS and potentially create a more minimally invasive procedure for these patients. As medicine progresses it becomes more and more individualized especially looking into the future with gene therapy treatments.

Research within the past 4 years has been an integral part of my journey at Pitt, it has influenced my career goals as well. I would like to follow in the footsteps of Dr. Saraf and pursue medical school especially a medical scientist training program so that I can use my research to help patients directly. The CURF is unique as it allows students of all fields of research to present their work and I hope to learn more about non-STEM related research. By looking at the work others do as well as the way they write about their research will also help strengthen my own writing skills to bring it up to a more professional level as is expected of medical scientists.  

Here is me! Thank You for reading my post and I appreciate any feedback or comments you provide. If you are more interested in my work, feel free to reach out to me at!

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