Profile: Senior Scientist, SickKids Research Institute
Department: Molecular Genetics, University of Toronto
Lab: Scott Lab
My lab uses the zebrafish embryo to understand the cellular and molecular mechanisms that regulate heart development. Congenital heart defects (CHDs) affect over 1% of the population, and result from errors in early embryonic heart development. Further, heart muscle in humans is not replaced after heart attacks and other injuries to the heart. We exploit the advantages zebrafish, which lay 100s of optically transparent embryos
that can be readily imaged and manipulated, to find the processes that regulate how the building blocks of the heart are first made, and later come together to form a functional heart.
In particular, we are actively studying:
- how heart stem cells are made in the embryo, and how we can harness this knowledge to fix the human heart;
- how CHDs arise, and discovering compounds that can alleviate the burden of these diseases (much as Folic Acid supplementation of pregnant woman has done for neural tube closure defects); and
- studying how the amazing capacity of the zebrafish heart to repair itself can be leveraged to drive human heart regeneration.
We have identified a combination of genes that can make cells in the early embryo move into and contribute to all cell types of the heart, and are now pursuing how this activity is carried out and may be used for therapeutic approaches.