I’ve been fascinated by nature from a young age. That innate interest led me to want to learn how molecules work together to make muscles contract. More specifically, since the heart is a pump made of cardiac muscles, I wanted to find out which molecules regulate heart development and how to stimulate heart regeneration after cardiac injuries such as heart attack (which leads to a loss of millions of cardiac muscle cells).
My research draws on my expertise in molecular and developmental biology, especially transcriptional and signaling regulation. Earlier in my career, I studied a series of key transcriptional factors and epigenetic regulators required for cardiovascular development and vessel morphogenesis, as well as the Hippo signaling pathway in cardiac regeneration in response to injury.
Since joining Cincinnati Children’s in 2013, I’ve used a multidisciplinary approach — including molecular and cellular biology, genetics, biochemistry, immunology and imaging microscopy — to investigate key signaling molecules in heart development and regeneration to get a better understanding of the complex gene networks controlling cardiovascular remodeling, function and pathogenesis.
I’ve also expanded my research beyond cardiac biology to include vascular network development, angiogenesis and vascular remodeling using the eye and brain as model systems to elucidate important molecular mechanisms that control organogenesis and tumorigenesis. We’ve demonstrated that the Hippo pathway effectors YAP and TAZ are required for vascular development and maturation. These efforts may pave the way for discovering novel therapeutic reagents to treat cardiovascular diseases.
Ultimately, we aim to translate our collective findings from basic scientific research to therapeutic intervention and patient care.
Over the years, my research has been supported by a variety of funding from internal and external sources. This funding includes an NIH R01 grant (2016-2021); Cincinnati Children’s Trustee Award Grant (2014-2016); American Heart Association Beginning Grants in Aid (2013-2014, 2010-2012); an NIH T32 cardiology training grant (2008-2010); and an NIH T32 nephrology training grant (2007-2008).