"Every stress leaves an indelible scar, and the organism pays for its survival after a stressful situation by becoming a little older."
- To uncover the molecular and, in particular, epigenetic underpinnings of stress-related somatic and behavioral conditions
- To determine how lasting epigenetic changes result from stressful experiences, accrue throughout life, and in turn contribute to diseases of the aging
- To identify novel epigenetic and molecular targets that will enhance our ability to predict, prevent, diagnose, and treat stress-related conditions
- To foster an interdisciplinary, creative environment that offers strong mentorship and promotes scientific growth
Psychosocial stress is ubiquitous in modern societies and, especially when chronic or excessive, can have detrimental effects on our bodies. Yet each of us will respond to stressful experiences in different ways, for better or for worse. What determines these different responses and outcomes as life progresses? And how exactly does stress “get under the skin?” By addressing these questions, our vision is to revolutionize the way we understand and treat stress-related conditions.
A particular focus of our lab is how stress can shape somatic and behavioral conditions through its lasting effects on the epigenome. Epigenetic changes are a set of chemical modifications that influence how genes work without altering the genetic code itself. Because these changes can result from environmental exposures, the epigenome acts as a molecular interface that fine-tunes gene and cell function in response to life experiences. We examine how lasting changes in DNA methylation, one of the critical epigenetic mechanisms, result from stressful experiences, accrue throughout life, and can in turn shape health or disease trajectories. While employing a life course perspective, we are especially interested in how stress epigenetics influences health outcomes of the aging, such as accelerated aging, cardiometabolic disease, and cancer.
To address these questions, our lab employs a translational approach that combines large-scale analyses in human cohorts with mechanistic investigations in cellular models. We use both bionformatics and wet lab tools. Our passion is to maintain an interdisciplinary, fun environment that promotes creative team work, offers strong mentorship, and fosters scientific growth.