Serving to Create New Recollections: How One Penn Researcher is Serving to us Higher Perceive the Mind Via Epigenetics

erica korb
Erica Korb, PhD

Rising up in Middle Metropolis Philadelphia Erica Korb, PhD, an assistant professor of Genetics within the Perelman Faculty of Drugs on the College of Pennsylvania, had all the time hoped to return residence. Whereas Korb accomplished her undergrad at Yale College, her PhD in Neuroscience on the College of California San Francisco, after which a postdoc at The Rockefeller College learning chromatin biology, she returned to Philadelphia in 2019. Korb says she was lucky to seek out her place on condition that Penn is a frontrunner within the fields that her lab researches.

As part of her analysis on the Korb Lab, Korb strives to know mechanisms of epigenetic regulation within the mind. Epigenetic regulation — which means how the world round us impacts gene expression — is important to the perform of neurons within the mind and aides with the creation of latest recollections, and extra.

Utilizing strategies similar to microscopy, bioinformatics, biochemistry, behavioral testing, and extra, Korb and her lab additionally examine the function of histones — that are a bunch of primary proteins present in chromatin — in neuronal perform and in neurodevelopmental disabilities.

Within the Q&A under, Korb mentioned her analysis, what evokes her, and what she sees as the best alternatives within the discipline.

What analysis are you at present endeavor?

Our lab works on the intersection of neuroscience and epigenetics. Epigenetics, in its broadest sense, explores how the environment can change the expression of our genes. Epigenetics is extremely essential within the mind and contributes to the creation of latest recollections, our means to adapt to the environment, and to the event of neurological problems. We’ve a lot of totally different tasks within the lab, starting from learning particular epigenetic regulators linked to reminiscence formation, to learning epigenetic disruptions that result in problems similar to Autism Spectrum Dysfunction.


What impressed you to do the analysis you’re driving?

After I began working in labs as an undergrad, I knew I favored science however didn’t have a lot of an thought of what doing “analysis” actually meant. One of many first instances I seemed below a microscope at neurons, I keep in mind being in complete awe. Not solely are neurons lovely cells, however on the time we had been attempting to know how a selected protein was regulated in neurons. I keep in mind taking a look at this protein below the microscope and seeing it completely colocalize (when two proteins are discovered on the similar location) with one other protein and having a second the place I spotted I used to be the one particular person on the earth who had ever seen that. The method of discovery, as laborious because it usually is, is actually thrilling and motivated me to pursue a profession on this discipline.

What are the most important challenges you face as a scientist? The place do you see the best alternatives?

The mind is an extremely complicated system that may be difficult to review. It’s fabricated from quite a few several types of cells that talk and are interconnected in complicated methods. Not solely does this make it obscure the mind as a complete, however many of those cells could be troublesome to isolate or work with. Luckily, that is an extremely thrilling time to be working in each the fields of neuroscience and epigenetics. There are continually new strategies and instruments being developed which have allowed us to make nice strides into our understanding of the function of epigenetic regulation within the mind.

We are also getting into a stage of collaborative science, the place individuals with very totally different expertise and experience assist to work on a troublesome drawback collectively. I hope that with the mix of latest expertise and becoming a member of of various labs to sort out difficult questions, we’ll find a way vastly enhance our understanding of the mind within the coming years.

Are there any upcoming collaborations that you simply’re trying ahead to?


I’ve been actually lucky to work with a bunch of Penn college on a SARS-CoV-2 associated venture. We’re analyzing a poorly understood protein encoded by SARS-CoV-2 and its function in disrupting host-cell epigenetic regulation. We’ve gotten to work with Drs. Susan Weiss, Shelley Berger, Ben Garcia, and Ed Morrissey, and discovered an unimaginable quantity within the course of. It’s been difficult to study a brand new discipline since we’re primarily a neuroscience lab nevertheless it’s additionally been extremely rewarding to have the prospect to work with consultants and contribute to our understanding of this virus.

What went into getting your lab began as a brand new college member?

Beginning a brand new lab is quite a lot of work but additionally a ton of enjoyable. Penn has been an incredible place to do that since all of our lab neighbors and the school in our division have been extremely beneficiant with their time and experience. After all, we’re actually not finished constructing the lab and we’re all the time in search of postdocs, college students, and techs to hitch our crew.

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