Wendy Dong

Program: Computational and Systems Biology

Current advisor: Rotating in the lab of Jeffrey Milbrandt, MD, PhD

Undergraduate university: Duke University

Research summary
During my recent lab rotation in the summer of 2022, I alternated between rotating in Dr. Stacey Rentschler’s lab and Dr. Peter Jin’s lab. In a recent publication (Zhang et al. 2021), the authors demonstrated that radiation-induced reprogramming of cardiac conduction could be a potential treatment strategy for arrhythmia management in ventricular tachycardia patients. However, the mechanisms of how these cardiac cells are being reprogrammed are not well understood. To elucidate this mechanism, in the Rentschler lab, I cultured an in vitro cardiomyocyte model and an in vitro human primary neuron model, irradiated the samples, and compared the physiological changes and molecular changes between the two terminally differentiated cell types. During the process, I first designed a pipeline to in vitro culture human primary neurons. Then, I conducted a preliminary experiment to irradiate neurons and cardiomyocytes with a single dose of 25 Gy radiation and culture them for 48 hours. Their changes post-irradiation were characterized through qPCR, RNA tapestation, IF staining, and MEA recording.

In parallel, I was in the Jin lab learning computational skills for functional genomics with the goal to learn how to analyze single-cell sequencing and RNA-sequencing data and apply these computational skills to the data collected from the Rentschler lab. I first learned the language Bash and learned the pipeline for whole genome sequencing analysis. With the newly acquired skills, I applied and analyzed two trios sets to identify de novo gene mutations to study congenital hydrocephalus. At the same time, I also learned how to use Partek Flow to analyze single nuclei RNA sequencing data and applied this knowledge to data collected from a previous cardiomyocyte radiotherapy experiment provided by the Rentschler lab.

Graduate publications