My journey to pursue the physician-scientist track stems from an early fascination with biology and my family’s eight-year struggle to save my younger brother’s life. My brother was born with a complex congenital heart defect known as Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS). In 2003, my brother received a heart transplant, but despite this, he passed away in 2004. Growing up, I strived to find an explanation for my brother’s congenital heart defect and became interested in medicine at a young age. Looking to pursue this goal, I attended the Michael DeBakey High School for Health Professions, a top pre-health and science public school, and in 2011 I was accepted to Harvard University where I pursued a major in the department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology. During my college years I took classes in developmental and stem cell biology where I became interested in the use of these fields to understand congenital defects. I began my research career in Drs. Caroline and Geoffrey Burn’s lab studying the development of the great vessels of the heart in zebrafish, Throughout my time at Harvard, I was awarded numerous fellowships that supported my undergraduate research, including the prestigious Amgen Scholars Fellowship that supported summer research in Dr. Michael Longaker’s lab at Stanford University. I pursued my undergraduate honors thesis in Dr. Richard Lee’s laboratory where I identified the role of Apolipoprotein E as a factor necessary for maintaining mature beta cell gene expression. These experiences culminated in my decision to apply to the physician-scientist program at Stanford University where I am currently training to pursue a career in academic medicine with the ultimate goal of practicing as a pediatric cardiologist and a university professor with an active laboratory. Currently, I am a graduate student in Dr. Sean Wu’s laboratory where I study the development of ventricular development in the heart using both bioinformatic approaches such as scRNA-seq and human induced pluripotent stem cells to study the development of the left and right ventricles. Through my work, I aim to understand the mechanisms that give rise to single ventricle congenital heart defects with the hope of making a difference in the lives of children born with these diseases.
Member (Student), Cardiovascular Institute
Education & Certifications
Doctor of Philosophy, Stanford University, STMRM-PHD (2022)
Bachelor of Arts, Harvard University, Human Dev. & Regenerative Bio. (2015)
devCellPy is a machine learning-enabled pipeline for automated annotation of complex multilayered single-cell transcriptomic data.
2022; 13 (1): 5271
A major informatic challenge in single cell RNA-sequencing analysis is the precise annotation of datasets where cells exhibit complex multilayered identities or transitory states. Here, we present devCellPy a highly accurate and precise machine learning-enabled tool that enables automated prediction of cell types across complex annotation hierarchies. To demonstrate the power of devCellPy, we construct a murine cardiac developmental atlas from published datasets encompassing 104,199 cells from E6.5-E16.5 and train devCellPy to generate a cardiac prediction algorithm. Using this algorithm, we observe a high prediction accuracy (>90%) across multiple layers of annotation and across de novo murine developmental data. Furthermore, we conduct a cross-species prediction of cardiomyocyte subtypes from in vitro-derived human induced pluripotent stem cells and unexpectedly uncover a predominance of left ventricular (LV) identity that we confirmed by an LV-specific TBX5 lineage tracing system. Together, our results show devCellPy to be a useful tool for automated cell prediction across complex cellular hierarchies, species, and experimental systems.
View details for DOI 10.1038/s41467-022-33045-x
View details for PubMedID 36071107
In vivo visualization and molecular targeting of the cardiac conduction system.
The Journal of clinical investigation
Accidental injury to the cardiac conduction system (CCS), a network of specialized cells embedded within the heart and indistinguishable from the surrounding heart muscle tissue, is a major complication in cardiac surgeries. Here, we addressed this unmet need by engineering targeted antibody-dye conjugates directed against CCS, allowing for the visualization of the CCS in vivo following a single intravenous injection in mice. These optical imaging tools showed high sensitivity, specificity, and resolution, with no adverse effects to CCS function. Further, with the goal of creating a viable prototype for human use, we generated a fully human monoclonal Fab, that similarly targets the CCS with high specificity. We demonstrate that, when conjugated to an alternative cargo, this Fab can also be used to modulate CCS biology in vivo providing a proof-of-principle for targeted cardiac therapeutics. Finally, in performing differential gene expression analyses of the entire murine CCS at single-cell resolution, we uncovered and validated a suite of additional cell surface markers that can be used to molecularly target the distinct subcomponents of the CCS, each prone to distinct life-threatening arrhythmias. These findings lay the foundation for translational approaches targeting the CCS for visualization and therapy in cardiothoracic surgery, cardiac imaging and arrhythmia management.
View details for DOI 10.1172/JCI156955
View details for PubMedID 35951416
Identification of Pathogenic Immune Cell Subsets Associated With Checkpoint Inhibitor-Induced Myocarditis.
Immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) are monoclonal antibodies used to activate the immune system against tumor cells. Despite therapeutic benefits, ICIs have the potential to cause immune-related adverse events such as myocarditis, a rare but serious side effect with up to 50% mortality in affected patients. Histologically, patients with ICI myocarditis have lymphocytic infiltrates in the heart, implicating T cell-mediated mechanisms. However, the precise pathological immune subsets and molecular changes in ICI myocarditis are unknown.To identify immune subset(s) associated with ICI myocarditis, we performed time-of-flight mass cytometry on peripheral blood mononuclear cells from 52 individuals: 29 patients with autoimmune adverse events (immune-related adverse events) on ICI, including 8 patients with ICI myocarditis, and 23 healthy control subjects. We also used multiomics single-cell technology to immunophenotype 30 patients/control subjects using single-cell RNA sequencing, single-cell T-cell receptor sequencing, and cellular indexing of transcriptomes and epitopes by sequencing with feature barcoding for surface marker expression confirmation. To correlate between the blood and the heart, we performed single-cell RNA sequencing/T-cell receptor sequencing/cellular indexing of transcriptomes and epitopes by sequencing on MRL/Pdcd1-/- (Murphy Roths large/programmed death-1-deficient) mice with spontaneous myocarditis.Using these complementary approaches, we found an expansion of cytotoxic CD8+ T effector cells re-expressing CD45RA (Temra CD8+ cells) in patients with ICI myocarditis compared with control subjects. T-cell receptor sequencing demonstrated that these CD8+ Temra cells were clonally expanded in patients with myocarditis compared with control subjects. Transcriptomic analysis of these Temra CD8+ clones confirmed a highly activated and cytotoxic phenotype. Longitudinal study demonstrated progression of these Temra CD8+ cells into an exhausted phenotype 2 months after treatment with glucocorticoids. Differential expression analysis demonstrated elevated expression levels of proinflammatory chemokines (CCL5/CCL4/CCL4L2) in the clonally expanded Temra CD8+ cells, and ligand receptor analysis demonstrated their interactions with innate immune cells, including monocytes/macrophages, dendritic cells, and neutrophils, as well as the absence of key anti-inflammatory signals. To complement the human study, we performed single-cell RNA sequencing/T-cell receptor sequencing/cellular indexing of transcriptomes and epitopes by sequencing in Pdcd1-/- mice with spontaneous myocarditis and found analogous expansions of cytotoxic clonal effector CD8+ cells in both blood and hearts of such mice compared with controls.Clonal cytotoxic Temra CD8+ cells are significantly increased in the blood of patients with ICI myocarditis, corresponding to an analogous increase in effector cytotoxic CD8+ cells in the blood/hearts of Pdcd1-/- mice with myocarditis. These expanded effector CD8+ cells have unique transcriptional changes, including upregulation of chemokines CCL5/CCL4/CCL4L2, which may serve as attractive diagnostic/therapeutic targets for reducing life-threatening cardiac immune-related adverse events in ICI-treated patients with cancer.
View details for DOI 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.121.056730
View details for PubMedID 35762356
The Tabula Sapiens: A multiple-organ, single-cell transcriptomic atlas of humans.
Science (New York, N.Y.)
2022; 376 (6594): eabl4896
Molecular characterization of cell types using single-cell transcriptome sequencing is revolutionizing cell biology and enabling new insights into the physiology of human organs. We created a human reference atlas comprising nearly 500,000 cells from 24 different tissues and organs, many from the same donor. This atlas enabled molecular characterization of more than 400 cell types, their distribution across tissues, and tissue-specific variation in gene expression. Using multiple tissues from a single donor enabled identification of the clonal distribution of T cells between tissues, identification of the tissue-specific mutation rate in B cells, and analysis of the cell cycle state and proliferative potential of shared cell types across tissues. Cell type-specific RNA splicing was discovered and analyzed across tissues within an individual.
View details for DOI 10.1126/science.abl4896
View details for PubMedID 35549404
- Publisher Correction: Cell types of origin of the cell-free transcriptome. Nature biotechnology 2022
Cell types of origin of the cell-free transcriptome.
Cell-free RNA from liquid biopsies can be analyzed to determine disease tissue of origin. We extend this concept to identify cell types of origin using the Tabula Sapiens transcriptomic cell atlas as well as individual tissue transcriptomic cell atlases in combination with the Human Protein Atlas RNA consensus dataset. We define cell type signature scores, which allow the inference of cell types that contribute to cell-free RNA for a variety of diseases.
View details for DOI 10.1038/s41587-021-01188-9
View details for PubMedID 35132263
- RNA splicing programs define tissue compartments and cell types at single-cell resolution ELIFE 2021; 10
CRISPR/Cas9-based targeting of fluorescent reporters to human iPSCs to isolate atrial and ventricular-specific cardiomyocytes.
2021; 11 (1): 3026
Generating cardiomyocytes (CMs) from human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) has represented a significant advance in our ability to model cardiac disease. Current differentiation protocols, however, have limited use due to their production of heterogenous cell populations, primarily consisting of ventricular-like CMs. Here we describe the creation of two chamber-specific reporter hiPSC lines by site-directed genomic integration using CRISPR-Cas9 technology. In the MYL2-tdTomato reporter, the red fluorescent tdTomato was inserted upstream of the 3' untranslated region of the Myosin Light Chain 2 (MYL2) gene in order faithfully label hiPSC-derived ventricular-like CMs while avoiding disruption of endogenous gene expression. Similarly, in the SLN-CFP reporter, Cyan Fluorescent Protein (CFP) was integrated downstream of the coding region of the atrial-specific gene, Sarcolipin (SLN). Purification of tdTomato+ and CFP+ CMs using flow cytometry coupled with transcriptional and functional characterization validated these genetic tools for their use in the isolation of bona fide ventricular-like and atrial-like CMs, respectively. Finally, we successfully generated a double reporter system allowing for the isolation of both ventricular and atrial CM subtypes within a single hiPSC line. These tools provide a platform for chamber-specific hiPSC-derived CM purification and analysis in the context of atrial- or ventricular-specific disease and therapeutic opportunities.
View details for DOI 10.1038/s41598-021-81860-x
View details for PubMedID 33542270
Purification of Pluripotent Stem Cell-Derived Cardiomyocytes Using CRISPR/Cas9-Mediated Integration of Fluorescent Reporters.
Methods in molecular biology (Clifton, N.J.)
2021; 2158: 223–40
Human induced pluripotent stem cell (hiPSC)-derived cardiomyocytes have become critically important for the detailed study of cardiac development, disease modeling, and drug screening. However, directed differentiation of hiPSCs into cardiomyocytes often results in mixed populations of cardiomyocytes and other cell types, which may confound experiments that require pure populations of cardiomyocytes. Here, we detail the use of a CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing strategy to develop cardiomyocyte-specific reporters that allow for the isolation of hiPSC-derived cardiomyocytes and chamber-specific myocytes. Moreover, we describe a cardiac differentiation protocol to derive cardiomyocytes from hiPSCs, as well as a strategy to use fluorescence-activated cell sorting to isolate pure populations of fluorescently labeled cardiomyocytes for downstream applications.
View details for DOI 10.1007/978-1-0716-0668-1_17
View details for PubMedID 32857377
- Patient-Specific Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells Implicate Intrinsic Impaired Contractility in Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. Circulation 2020; 142 (16): 1605–8
Intrinsic Endocardial Defects Contribute to Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome.
Cell stem cell
Hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS) is a complex congenital heart disease characterized by abnormalities in the left ventricle, associated valves, and ascending aorta. Studies have shown intrinsic myocardial defects but do not sufficiently explain developmental defects in the endocardial-derived cardiac valve, septum, and vasculature. Here, we identify a developmentally impaired endocardial population in HLHS through single-cell RNA profiling of hiPSC-derived endocardium and human fetal heart tissue with an underdeveloped left ventricle. Intrinsic endocardial defects contribute to abnormal endothelial-to-mesenchymal transition, NOTCH signaling, and extracellular matrix organization, key factors in valve formation. Endocardial abnormalities cause reduced cardiomyocyte proliferation and maturation by disrupting fibronectin-integrin signaling, consistent with recently described de novo HLHS mutations associated with abnormal endocardial gene and fibronectin regulation. Together, these results reveal a critical role for endocardium in HLHS etiology and provide a rationale for considering endocardial function in regenerative strategies.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.stem.2020.07.015
View details for PubMedID 32810435
- Immune Profiling and Causal Antigen Discovery in Mouse and Human Models of Immune Checkpoint Inhibitor-induced Myocarditis LIPPINCOTT WILLIAMS & WILKINS. 2020
Wnt Activation and Reduced Cell-Cell Contact Synergistically Induce Massive Expansion of Functional Human iPSC-Derived Cardiomyocytes.
Cell stem cell
2020; 27 (1): 50–63.e5
Modulating signaling pathways including Wnt and Hippo can induce cardiomyocyte proliferation in vivo. Applying these signaling modulators to human induced pluripotent stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes (hiPSC-CMs) in vitro can expand CMs modestly (<5-fold). Here, we demonstrate massive expansion of hiPSC-CMs in vitro (i.e., 100- to 250-fold) by glycogen synthase kinase-3β (GSK-3β) inhibition using CHIR99021 and concurrent removal of cell-cell contact. We show that GSK-3β inhibition suppresses CM maturation, while contact removal prevents CMs from cell cycle exit. Remarkably, contact removal enabled 10 to 25 times greater expansion beyond GSK-3β inhibition alone. Mechanistically, persistent CM proliferation required both LEF/TCF activity and AKT phosphorylation but was independent from yes-associated protein (YAP) signaling. Engineered heart tissues from expanded hiPSC-CMs showed comparable contractility to those from unexpanded hiPSC-CMs, demonstrating uncompromised cellular functionality after expansion. In summary, we uncovered a molecular interplay that enables massive hiPSC-CM expansion for large-scale drug screening and tissue engineering applications.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.stem.2020.06.001
View details for PubMedID 32619518
Levitating Cells to Sort the Fit and the Fat.
Density is a core material property and varies between different cell types, mainly based on differences in their lipid content. Sorting based on density enables various biomedical applications such as multi-omics in precision medicine and regenerative repair in medicine. However, a significant challenge is sorting cells of the same type based on density differences. Here, a new method for real-time monitoring and sorting of single cells based on their inherent levitation profiles driven by their lipid content is reported. As a model system, human-induced pluripotent stem cell (hiPSC)-derived cardiomyocytes (CMs) from a patient with neutral lipid storage disease (NLSD) due to loss of function of adipose triglyceride lipase (ATGL) resulting in abnormal lipid storage in cardiac muscle are used. This levitation-based strategy detects subpopulations within ATGL-deficient hiPSC-CMs with heterogenous lipid content, equilibrating at different levitation heights due to small density differences. In addition, sorting of these differentially levitating subpopulations are monitored in real time. Using this approach, sorted healthy and diseased hiPSC-CMs maintain viability and function. Pixel-tracking technologies show differences in contraction between NLSD and healthy hiPSC-CMs. Overall, this is a unique approach to separate diseased cell populations based on their intracellular lipid content that cannot be achieved using traditional flow cytometry techniques.
View details for DOI 10.1002/adbi.201900300
View details for PubMedID 32352239
- Single-Cell Delineation of Who's on First and Second Heart Fields During Development CIRCULATION RESEARCH 2019; 125 (4): 411–13
- Single-Cell Delineation of Who's on First and Second Heart Fields During Development. Circulation research 2019; 125 (4): 411-413
Apolipoprotein E is a pancreatic extracellular factor that maintains mature β-cell gene expression.
2018; 13 (10): e0204595
The in vivo microenvironment of tissues provides myriad unique signals to cells. Thus, following isolation, many cell types change in culture, often preserving some but not all of their in vivo characteristics in culture. At least some of the in vivo microenvironment may be mimicked by providing specific cues to cultured cells. Here, we show that after isolation and during maintenance in culture, adherent rat islets reduce expression of key β-cell transcription factors necessary for β-cell function and that soluble pancreatic decellularized matrix (DCM) can enhance β-cell gene expression. Following chromatographic fractionation of pancreatic DCM, we performed proteomics to identify soluble factors that can maintain β-cell stability and function. We identified Apolipoprotein E (ApoE) as an extracellular protein that significantly increased the expression of key β-cell genes. The ApoE effect on beta cells was mediated at least in part through the JAK/STAT signaling pathway. Together, these results reveal a role for ApoE as an extracellular factor that can maintain the mature β-cell gene expression profile.
View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0204595
View details for PubMedID 30303984
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC6179231
Cardiac Regeneration Lessons From Development
2017; 120 (6): 941-959
Palliative surgery for congenital heart disease has allowed patients with previously lethal heart malformations to survive and, in most cases, to thrive. However, these procedures often place pressure and volume loads on the heart, and over time, these chronic loads can cause heart failure. Current therapeutic options for initial surgery and chronic heart failure that results from failed palliation are limited, in part, by the mammalian heart's low inherent capacity to form new cardiomyocytes. Surmounting the heart regeneration barrier would transform the treatment of congenital, as well as acquired, heart disease and likewise would enable development of personalized, in vitro cardiac disease models. Although these remain distant goals, studies of heart development are illuminating the path forward and suggest unique opportunities for heart regeneration, particularly in fetal and neonatal periods. Here, we review major lessons from heart development that inform current and future studies directed at enhancing cardiac regeneration.
View details for DOI 10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.116.309040
View details for Web of Science ID 000397330700007
View details for PubMedID 28302741
Nkx2.5+ Cardiomyoblasts Contribute to Cardiomyogenesis in the Neonatal Heart.
2017; 7 (1): 12590
During normal lifespan, the mammalian heart undergoes limited renewal of cardiomyocytes. While the exact mechanism for this renewal remains unclear, two possibilities have been proposed: differentiated myocyte replication and progenitor/immature cell differentiation. This study aimed to characterize a population of cardiomyocyte precursors in the neonatal heart and to determine their requirement for cardiac development. By tracking the expression of an embryonic Nkx2.5 cardiac enhancer, we identified cardiomyoblasts capable of differentiation into striated cardiomyocytes in vitro. Genome-wide expression profile of neonatal Nkx2.5+ cardiomyoblasts showed the absence of sarcomeric gene and the presence of cardiac transcription factors. To determine the lineage contribution of the Nkx2.5+ cardiomyoblasts, we generated a doxycycline suppressible Cre transgenic mouse under the regulation of the Nkx2.5 enhancer and showed that neonatal Nkx2.5+ cardiomyoblasts mature into cardiomyocytes in vivo. Ablation of neonatal cardiomyoblasts resulted in ventricular hypertrophy and dilation, supporting a functional requirement of the Nkx2.5+ cardiomyoblasts. This study provides direct lineage tracing evidence that a cardiomyoblast population contributes to cardiogenesis in the neonatal heart. The cell population identified here may serve as a promising therapeutic for pediatric cardiac regeneration.
View details for PubMedID 28974782