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Emre Bektik, Ph.D.

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Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OHIOPostdoctoral Research06/2019Heart Regeneration, Cardiac Physiology
Tsukuba University, JAPANPh.D.03/2018Human Biology

I received my PhD degree at University of Tsukuba, Japan. My graduate study was focused on understanding mechanisms of direct cardiac reprogramming. My research work found that immature induced cardiomyocytes (iCMs) had active cell cycle status during early reprogramming stage of iCMs and suppression of cell cycle at S-phase effectively improved reprogramming quality and quantity. In another study in human cells, my work showed that additional reprogramming factors, HAND2 and miR-1, beside previously identified 7-factor reprogramming cocktail, improved maturity of human iCMs. More recently, we found that inhibition of cAMP/PKA/CREB signaling axis improves fibroblast plasticity for cardiac reprogramming.

As a postdoctoral fellow, I focused more on the roles on non-coding RNAs in heart development and disease. During my early postdoc career, I worked on understanding non-canonical functions of microRNAs, particularly of miR-1, in cardiac physiology. My essential work found that miR-1 could directly bind with Kir2.1 ion channel at protein level and regulate the action potential in cardiomyocytes. Our later findings showed that miR-1 binds to Kir2.1 through a sequence of nucleotides outside its seed sequence and modulates channel gating. As miR-1 deficiency is directly linked with ventricular cardiac arrhythmias, our findings elucidating a non-canonical microRNA function may improve molecular understanding of arrhythmias that result from miR-1 deficiency and help generating effective strategies to treat ventricular arrhythmias. Interestingly, this interaction seems not to be restricted to miR-1 and Kir2.1 as my work showed several other potential binding partners of miR-1 and it is likely that other ion channels might also be non-canonically regulated by different miRs. Currently, I am working on novel functions of long non-coding RNAs in atrial cell specification and cardiac hypertrophy in Prof. Da-zhi Wang's lab at Boston Children's Hospital.

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Funded by the NIH National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences through its Clinical and Translational Science Awards Program, grant number UL1TR002541.