locus-specific epigenetic remodelingThe Heller Lab lab studies the epigenetic mechanisms that underlie aberrant neuronal function and behavior in neuropsychiatric disease. To approach this problem, we apply preclinical mouse paradigms of drug addiction and depression, and analyze the epigenome in vivo to uncover which histone modifications are functionally relevant to the effects of psychostimulants, such as cocaine, or chronic mild stress. Because the syndromes of addiction and depression persist long after cessation of the harmful experience, stable epigenetic remodeling is an attractive mechanism for such long-lasting effects and presents an intriguing target for therapeutic intervention. We use high-throughput sequencing and bioinformatic approaches, including machine learning, to identify genes at which drug- or stress-regulation of the epigenome correlates with changes in gene expression. Using novel epigenetic editing tools, we then target individual modifications and examine their causal relevance to transcription and behavior.  This ‘bottom-up’ approach allows direct elucidation of the causal relevance of epigenetic remodeling in the brain.

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Penn Epigenetics Institute       Brain and Behavior Research Foundation Logo         The Pittsburgh Foundation Logo          NIH Logo         Whitehall Foundation Logo


Latest News

  • Elizabeth A Heller receives grant from SynGAP Research Fund Thursday, November 19, 2020

    Dr. Elizabeth Heller was recently awarded a research grant award from the SynGAP Research Fund to support her lab’s work in epigenetic regulation of SynGAP1-related intellectual disability. With the SynGAP Research Fund’s award to support a postdoctoral fellow in the lab, Dr. Heller and her team will work to uncover druggable targets that could be used to develop a treatment for this rare genetic disorder. Congratulations, Dr. Heller, and many thanks to the team at the SynGAP Research Fund!

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  • Elizabeth A Heller receives U18 funding from the NIH Sunday, September 20, 2020

    Elizabeth Heller has received U18 funding from the NIH -NIDA Step Up for Substance Use Disorders (SUD): A Drug Target Initiative for Scientists Engaged in Fundamental Research, to study Nr4a1 as a target gene in cocaine use disorder. Congratulations!

  • New Hires Thursday, October 1, 2020

    The Heller Lab welcomes three new members: Shuo Zhang Ph.D (Postdoctoral Fellow), Morgan Woolf (Research Specialist), and Nicole Harrington (Undergraduate Student). View team profiles here.

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