Mary Gates Research Scholar, Winter 2022
Research Project: Optogenetic Suppression of Stem Cell-derived Cardiomyocyte Patch Engraftment Arrhythmias
Project Description: Heart attacks affect millions of people worldwide by causing non-reversible damage to the heart. As a result, post-heart attack patients are much more susceptible to fatal complications such as heart failure. One potential therapy for post-heart attack patients is engrafting induced pluripotent stem cell-derived cardiomyocyte (iPSC-CM) patches to remuscularize scar tissue. However, these patches have been found to introduce potentially lethal arrhythmias. In my project, we seek to examine the efficacy of light-elicited currents (optogenetics) in suppressing such arrhythmias through computer simulations. If we establish that such optogenetic suppression is attainable and safe, we will provide a potential solution for experimental scientists to test further in large animals and possibly humans.
What have you learned throughout your research project?
I have learned how fundamental concepts from my coursework are applied to solve pertinent challenges in modern medicine. Moreover, I gained valuable technical, critical thinking, and communication skills that will facilitate the path toward reaching my long-term goals. Working on a purely computational project has also allowed me to expand my creativity. I have learned to appreciate and grow with the open-ended nature of my research, as one problem may have boundless solutions.
What piece of advice do you have for future applicants?
Find something that you are truly passionate about and can connect to your long-term goals. You should know your project inside out, so make sure to reach out to your mentor(s) for advice and insight. Most importantly, believe in yourself!