In Memorium - Amy Cantilena, Ph.D.
Molecular & Integrative Physiology
Amy's research career started during her time as an undergraduate at Villanova University. She initiated her first experiences in a biochemical lab in the Liver Diseases Branch at the NIDDK in their Summer Student Program in 2005. Working under guidance, the project attempted to correlate the clinical phenotype of lamivudine resistant hepatitis b patients with the genetic sequence of their now-mutant virus. From 2007-2008, she worked with Dr. Timothy Dudley in the Villanova University Chemistry department using theoretical models, they mapped potential energies of transition states for small alkenes interacting with chromium oxides and hydroxides. After graduating Villanova University with a B.S. in Chemistry and a concentration in biochemistry, Amy joined Dr. Cynthia Dunbar's lab in the Hematology Branch of the NHLBI as a post-baccalaureate intramural research training award recipient. She was fortunate enough to work on two major projects during her time in Dr. Dunbar's lab. The primary project was to examine the lentiviral insertion sites of the vectors used in reprogramming of somatic cells to induced pluripotent stem cells, to determine if there was a correlation between genetic insertion sites and conversion to the iPS phenotype. This project also used its data to determine if there was a greater propensity for the lentiviral vectors to insert and thereby activate adjacent oncogenes/proto-oncogenes. Her second project was determining if membrane polarity of hematopoietic progenitor cells was necessary for engraftment in a transplant model. Using a cholesterol sequestering agent to disrupt membrane fluidity, they compared the homing properties of polarized versus non-polarized CD34+ human cells in a NOD/SCID mouse.
Two years after enjoying every valuable research experience learned at NIH, she was accepted into KUMC's MD/PhD Physician Scientist Training Program, and began medical school in August 2010. Amy received her PhD in Molecular and Integrative Physiology in 2017 under the guidance of her mentor, Dr. Buddhadeb Dawn. She explored the differences of immune-modulating properties of mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) relative to their expression of endoglin. Specifically, investigating the suppression of t-cell growth and differentiation by these two different MSC phenotypes. This project hopes to correlate a difference in the immune modulation with the differences our lab has found in the rescue of cardiac function, while using these two cell types for post-myocardial infarction cell therapies.
Amy completed her first semester as a third year medical school student.
Mentor: Buddhabed Dawn, M.D.