Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Heart of the Matter

I recently had the opportunity to present recent updates of my research to my research group.

How does this happen and why? Let's get through a little background prior to answering these questions.

Our lab studies heart development. Before I get into the details of what we study, let's first discuss a little cell biology background. Within every cell in the body, minus mature red blood cells, there's a central compartment, called the nucleus, where DNA is packaged.

DNA can be divided into several units, one of which is genes which can be transcribed into RNA. The RNA can then be translated into protein, and different proteins serve different functions. There are several factors and events that determine whether a gene gets expressed (i.e. made into protein), one of these factors is the transcription factor, which can bind the DNA sequences upstream of the actual coding sequence of the gene, and either repress the gene or drive expression of the gene.

[Sidenote: Some examples of proteins are the keratins in your nails and the enzymes in your saliva that begin to digest your food as soon as you eat. This shows that proteins can function as structure components or they can perform an energy-requiring action, like in the case of enzymes.]

Transcription factors that can bind DNA, have domains within their structures that dictate exactly where they can bind.

Our lab focuses on several transcription factors that have been shown in previous research studies to be mutated, and to function improperly due to these mutations. Such mutations are usually discovered through their link to specific disorders. In my case, the transcription factor I study contains mutations that have been linked to congenital heart defects.

Congenital heart defects are abnormalities in the structure and/or function of the heart that exist at birth.

So in my research, I work to understand how dysregulation of specific transcription factors affect expression of the genes these factors regulate and more. Based on the outcome of the meeting I recently had with my lab, my project has taken an interesting turn down an avenue that I'm excited, but apprehensive to go down.

I'll be sure to tell you more about the project and where it goes as progress is made.

No comments:

His Awesome Splendor

His Awesome Splendor
Upon seeing this view, I knew I had to capture it.

My Fave...

My Fave...