AUG 30, 2016 08:00 AM PDT

Building embryonic lineages

  • Independent Group Leader CECAD - Cluster of Excellence, Institute for Neurophysiology & Center for Molecular Medicine (CMMC), University of Cologne, Germany
      Leo Kurian completed his basic education in chemistry followed by a Master's degree in biotechnology in India. He obtained his PhD in genetics from the University of Cologne. He spent his post-doctoral years in the Belmonte lab at the Salk Institute and in the Yeo lab at UCSD (both in San Diego, California), where he established stem cell-based models to study programming and reprogramming of cell-fate decisions. In 2014, he established an independent group, supported by the NRW Stem Cell Network, to study the regulatory basis of cardiac development, aging, and regeneration at the University of Cologne.

    The human body is composed of about 200 different cell types. The identity and function of these distinct cell types are precisely programmed by the regulatory networks encoded in the 3 billion base pairs of DNA that constitute the human genome. While 60% of our genome is transcribed, less than 2% of it is translated to proteins. In contrast to previous assumptions, this suggests that a significant majority of the regulatory information from the genome functions as RNAs, termed non-coding RNAs. Emerging evidences suggest that a substantial portion of these non-coding transcripts control myriad biological processes ranging from development to disease, establishing the vital role played by these RNA regulatory elements. In addition, these molecules are regulated by RNA binding proteins at the functional level. We investigate how RNA regulatory elements program cellular identities during cardiac development, aging, and regeneration.

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