Fall 2012 Jaconette L. Tietze Young Scientist Award

The Jaconette L. Tietze Young Scientist Award is for one year of support of $25,000, with a preference for senior postdoctoral fellows who are nearing independence and/or for junior faculty who have not yet had major external funding. The research should involve or be relevant to some aspect of stem or progenitor cell biology or therapies.

Kvitha Kuppusamy, PhD

Senior Fellow, Ruohola-Baker Lab, Department of Biochemistry
University of Washington

Kuppusamy Abstract:
Heart failure is a burgeoning public health problem that results principally from a deficiency of cardiomyocytes. The ability to derive cardiomyocytes from stem cells offers the potential of addressing this root cause, either through transplantation therapies or manipulation of endogenous cardiac cells. However, embryonic stem cell derived cardiomyocytes have only fetal stage maturity making them poor model of adult cardiomyocytes and poorly functioning in in vivo applications. If we hope to use human embryonic stem cell (hESC) derived cardiomyocyte to model genetic diseases with adult onset such as cardiomyopathies, screen drugs, model adult signaling and physiology or repair the damaged heart, the maturation of stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes need to be accelerated. Our preliminary data suggest that microRNAs control maturation of hESC-derived cardiomyocytes. In this project, we will further test this hypothesis and attempt to accelerate cardiomyocyte maturation by manipulating key miRNA function. Large scale miRNA sequencing and candidate approaches are currently underway to identify such key miRNAs. Functional analysis through gain and loss of function strategies will provide further insights into the mechanistic action of these miRNAs. We believe that this work will be highly significant for basic and applied research and regenerative medicine since it will enable the production of mature cardiomyocytes from hESCs/hiPSCs and potentially from endogenous cardiac stem cells in vivo, thereby increasing the value of stem cell cardiogenesis for medical applications.