Introduction to the CURF!

Hi! I am Jenny, a junior Neuroscience major with a Chemistry and CS minor. I am conducting research under my mentor Dr. Zhang Manling, MD in the department of Cardiology. Our research is in the area of cardiac regeneration. We are currently studying a gene called Mettl14, which is involved in various processes in cardiac development. Because the processes that occur in cardiac development model the processes that would need to occur for a tissue to regenerate, studying this gene can potentially yield a novel cardiac regeneration therapy. Previously, we have looked at how Mettl14 affects the cardiomyocyte proliferation rate, the rate at which cardiac muscle cells divide. Proliferation is an important process of cardiac development and regeneration because cells must divide and increase in number to form the heart or replace cardiomyocytes that were lost after injury to the heart.

This semester, I will be focused on examining how Mettl14 affects another important process shared by cardiac development and cardiac regeneration: cardiomyocyte maturation. During development, cardiomyocytes must undergo internal and external changes so that they can contract and pump blood throughout the body for (quite literally) a lifetime. Similarly, for the heart to regenerate, it is necessary not only for cardiomyocytes to divide and increase in number but also for these new cardiomyocytes to grow and mature until they are strong enough for sustained contraction.

This research is very important because cardiac muscle cells naturally have limited regenerative ability after injury. Cardiomyocytes cannot repair themselves effectively or produce new cardiomyocytes to replace the ones that were lost. This is one of the primary issues with cardiac diseases, which is the leading cause of death in the US. Currently, heart disease causes 659,000 deaths and costs 363 billion dollars for treatment, management, and medications. A novel cardiac regeneration therapy would not only save thousands of lives but also save billions of dollars.

I am excited to be part of the CURF to help me further study this topic and determine and pursue my professional goals. I know I want medicine and research to both be part of my future. However, I do not yet know how I will blend my roles as a future physician and a researcher. Developing my research and communication skills as a part of CURF will allow me to become a more independent researcher and to better understand what role research will take in my future goals. In addition, I can continue applying what I learn in the classroom to help actual patients and individuals through research.

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