Giovanni Botten, an M.D./Ph.D. student in the Xu lab, was awarded an American Heart Association (AHA) predoctoral fellowship. This fellowship will support Giovanni’s research into heart development and disorders, such as ischemic heart disease — one of the leading causes of death worldwide.
“I am very grateful to receive support from the AHA for my research. This award will help me expand on my current work involving gene regulation in cardiac muscle cell development, and provide me with the resources I need to transition to a career as a physician–scientist studying cardiovascular disease,” says Giovanni.
Giovanni is currently investigating the molecular processes that control the expression of key cell identity genes during the differentiation of stem cells to cardiac myocytes — the functional units of the heart. His work will help determine which regulatory DNA sequences or ‘transcriptional enhancers’ are critical for the differentiation of stem cells to cardiac myocytes and why mutations in non-coding DNA can lead to congenital heart disease. His work will aid in the development of cell-based therapies for ischemic heart disease, which currently lacks viable treatment options.
“How different gene programs are established to control cell identity is a fundamental question in stem cell biology,” says Dr. Jian Xu, an associate professor at CRI and Giovanni’s mentor. “Giovanni’s work promises to provide new insights into the gene regulatory processes controlling heart development, and how dysregulation of these processes contributes to heart diseases.”