Catherine Jung Rose Hills
Investigating changes in gene expression that affect heart rate during pregnancy
In normal pregnancies, cardiac output increases to accommodate increased metabolic demand. There are changes in pacemaker cells that cause an increase in resting heart rate. Currently, the mechanisms that connect changes in hormones to changes in gene expression in pacemaker cells are unknown. Understanding the mechanisms that lead to an increase in heart rate in pregnancies could provide insight on how to prevent cardiovascular complications in pregnancies. For my project, I will be studying changes in gene expression between pregnant and non-pregnant mice. Through laser capture microdissection, I will be able to isolate sinus nodes and sequence the RNA of pacemaker cells from these mice. I will also be collecting heart rate data from pregnant and non-pregnant mice through surgically implanted transmitters. This will allow me to assess heart rate dynamics in fully awake pregnant mice throughout all stages of pregnancy. My project aims to connect gene expression changes to sinus physiology, so that in future, I will be able to understand how changes in gene expression lead to hormonal changes in pregnancy.