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megan leask phd 570x350Megan Leask, Ph.D., InstructorMegan Leask, Ph.D., has received an NIH/NIAMS Competitive Diversity Supplement for an existing R01 awarded to Dr. Richard Reynolds for her research titled, "Functional and Integrative OMICS of Recurrent Gout Flares.”

Leask is Indigenous Māori from New Zealand who joined her mentors Drs. Richard Reynolds, and Tony Merriman, in the Division of Clinical Immunology and Rheumatology a year and a half ago as a Scientist II.

After carrying out a large genome wide association study on gout that has given their team a variety of possible targets, Leask’s diversity supplement will help take a couple of those genetic targets and functionally test them in a cellular assay which takes monocytes from gout patients and exposes them to gout-causing crystals. Leask's role in the project is to combine RNA sequencing and genotyping data and create an eQTL data set linking the genetics of gout-risk to gene expression of the immune response.

"The data has already been collected; it is just more of an analysis pipeline that I would be working on," says Leask, who is now an Instructor in the Division.

Another part of the project will take the pieces of DNA that are possibly altering gene expression and the immune response, and inject them into zebrafish. This will allow Leask and her team to observe where these pieces of DNA function so that they can see where they function in tissues.

The long-term application Dr. Leask’s work has the potential to identify novel targets for therapeutic use and reduce health disparities and improve genetic equity among patients with gout.