Meimei Wang, a Graduate Biomedical Sciences (GBS) Ph.D. candidate in the lab of Dr. Yang Zhou, assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, has been awarded a two-year predoctoral fellowship from the American Heart Association. The award runs through the end of 2024 to support Wang’s study, “The function of ELMSAN1 in direct cardiac reprogramming.”

Meimei Wang, Graduate Biomedical Sciences (GBS) Ph.D. candidateMeimei Wang, Graduate Biomedical Sciences (GBS) Ph.D. candidateHeart disease remains the leading cause of death in the United States. The damage caused by myocardial infarction is irreversible as adult mammal hearts lack the ability to regenerate cardiomyocytes. A variety of novel approaches to re-muscularize the heart have emerged, some of which include direct cardiac reprogramming. This strategy converts fibroblasts into induced cardiomyocyte-like cells (iCMs) in vitro and in vivo through viral delivery of three cardiac lineage transcription factors. Direct conversion of endogenous cardiac fibroblasts (CFs) to iCMs in the injured heart not only reduce scar size and adverse tissue remodeling, but also improves cardiac function when studied in mouse models. There has been little information uncovered related to the mechanisms underlying histone modification in cardiac reprogramming, however.

Wang proposes that the protein ELMSAN1 regulates reprogramming efficiency via MiDAC-mediated histone acetylation, or the combination of proteins ELMSAN1, HDAC1 and DNTTIP1.

“As a prospective strategy for cardiac regeneration, direct cardiac reprogramming enables the conversion of pathological fibroblasts into functional cardiomyocytes while circumventing drawbacks associated with induced pluripotent stem cell differentiation,” Wang said. “My study focuses on novel histone deacetylase complex component-ELMSAN1. I will explore how ELMSAN1 regulates direct cardiac reprogramming through complex formation with two other proteins, HDAC1 and DNTTIP1.”

Wang earned her medical degree from Central South University in China before joining UAB’s Department of Biomedical Engineering as a visiting scholar. She is pursuing a career as an investigator at a major research institution.