Meet a PennMedicine Researcher
Jorge Henao-Mejia, MD, PhD
Jorge Henao-Mejia, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, is the winner of this year’s Michael S. Brown New Investigator Research Award, which recognizes emerging faculty investigators engaged in innovative discoveries.
Dr. Henao-Mejia is Assistant Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine. His work at Penn and The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) integrates two broad areas: gene expression regulation by non-coding RNAs and how these molecules control inflammatory processes in the context of inflammatory disorders. His research explores the biochemical mechanisms that control the duration and intensity of immune responses and how their dysregulation promote the development of chronic inflammation in the context of modern human pathologies such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, atherosclerosis, autoimmunity, neurodegenerative disorders and cancer. A central goal of the Henao-Mejia lab in its early years is to elucidate how tissue-derived and environmental cues regulate the intensity and duration of immune responses through activation of specific subsets of non-coding RNAs or cis regulatory elements, and how dysregulation of these processes contribute to inflammatory pathologies. His recent studies on long non-coding RNAs represent a critical building block for illuminating an uncharted landscape of regulatory mechanisms that are critical for immune and tissue homeostasis. They are the foundation for ongoing studies aimed to elucidate the mechanisms by which these molecules control gene expression, the nature of the signals that regulate them, and the identity of novel non-coding RNAs that control resident immune cells in different tissues. In addition to this research, Dr. Henao-Mejia was one of the pioneers in adopting the CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing system for targeting one-cell mouse embryos for the purpose of generating new genetically engineered mouse models. He currently serves as Scientific Director of the CRISPR/Cas9 mouse-targeting core at PSOM, and has become an important contributor in communities across campus, generating over 150 new mouse models for 60 researchers at Penn/CHOP and nationwide. As one colleague noted, “Jorge’s work studying inflammation, host metabolism and gene expression regulation by non-coding RNAs has established him as an emerging leader in this field, and I have every expectation that he will continue to make groundbreaking contributions toward our understanding of host-microbial interactions and disease pathogenesis.”