Congratulations to Nick Chavkin, Gael Genet, and Nafiisha Genet, who have all received Career Development Awards from the American Heart association!
Nick Chavkin is a Research Assistant Professor in the CVRC working in the Hirschi and Walsh Labs, whose award will support his research in study age-related loss of the Y chromosome in heart failure. Mosaic loss of Y chromosome (mLOY) in the hematopoietic system is the most common post-zygotic mutation in humans. This form of aneuploidy, in a subset of hematopoietic stem cells, increases with age and affects ~45% of men by age 70. Epidemiological data have associated this condition with mortality, cancer, dementia, and heart failure. A recent study in the Walsh Lab revealed that mLOY promotes a pro-fibrotic response in tissues. Dr. Chavkin’s work will investigate how mLOY disrupts myocardial tissue remodeling and results in cardiac fibrosis that impairs heart function. These studies will reveal novel mechanisms associated with aging and fibrosis, helping us better understand age as a risk factor for heart failure.
Gael Genet is also a Research Assistant Professor in the Hirschi Lab. His award will support research on a rare genetic disorder called Hereditary Hemorrhagic Telangiectasia (HHT), which causes abnormal blood vessels to form in multiple organs. The primary cells affected in HHT are called endothelial cells, which line blood vessels. Dr. Genet is investigating the cellular and molecular mechanisms that lead to the development of these abnormal blood vessels, with the goal of identifying new therapeutic strategies to prevent and/or regress them. One promising avenue is to repurpose existing drugs that regulate endothelial cell cycle, which could help prevent the formation or growth of these abnormal vessels.
Nafiisha Genet is a Research Assistant Professor in the Hirschi Lab. Her recently published study in Cell Reports (April 2023) revealed that connexin 43 (Cx43)-mediated neurovascular interactions in the adult brain neural stem cell niche is an important regulator of neural stem cell activation. Her study shows that loss of Cx43 in either neural stem cells or endothelial cells leads to neural stem cell activation and proliferation. For her newly funded Career Development Award, she aims to study the role of endothelial- and astroglial-expressed Cx43 in retinal vascular development and retinopathies, namely retinopathy of prematurity and diabetic retinopathy. Both diseases are characterized by astrocytic death and changes in the retinal microvasculature that ultimately lead to blindness. Dr. Genet’s project will provide insights into Cx43-based neurovascular interactions in the developing retinal vasculature and will determine whether modulating Cx43 expression and/or function with Cx43 mimetic peptides can prevent or correct pathological neovascularization in retinopathies, opening a new avenue for devising therapeutic strategies.