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Minerva T. Garcia-Barrio is an Assistant Professor in the Morehouse Cardiovascular Research Institute; a NIH-NHLBI sponsored Research Center of Excellence at Morehouse School of Medicine. She earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Buenos Aires, in Argentina in 1987, and completed her Ph.D. Degree in the University of Salamanca in Spain in 1995. She conducted post-graduate training in NIH at the NICHD in the laboratory of Dr. Alan G. Hinnebusch, Section Chief of the LEGR (1995-2000). After a brief stay in the field of HIV research in Morehouse School of Medicine in collaboration with Dr. M. Powell, Dr. Garcia-Barrio joined the CVRI in 2002 as a Research Instructor. Her initial studies focused on the understanding of the dynamic processes of vascular remodeling that are ultimately brought about by changes in the transcription profile of VSMC. In particular, her research interests led her to concentrate on the role of basic Helix-Loop-Helix (bHLH) transcription factors in vascular biology and made her recipient of an American Heart Association Beginning-Grant-in-Aid. This award supported part of her research on the regulatory interaction between ID3 and tcf4. As an Assistant Professor in the CVRI since 2006, her research aims at furthering the understanding of this interaction as well us uncovering the role of novel bHLHs in vascular biology. Currently, she holds an SC1 grant from NIGMS/NHLBI funding her research on the role of a novel bHLH, ASCL3, on vascular biology.
The dynamic process of vascular remodeling involves changes in the proliferative state, cell fate and migration of the vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMC). Ultimately, these effects are brought about by changes in the transcription profile of genes expressed in these cells. Of particular interest are lineage specific transcription factors (TFs) of the basic helix-loop-helix family (bHLH). These TFs have been shown to regulate proliferation and differentiation in multiple tissues as well as play a crucial role in development. The ID proteins have an HLH domain but lack the basic domain responsible for DNA binding. They behave as dominant negative regulators of the bHLH transcription factors through the formation of heterodimers that fail to bind DNA. ID proteins together with other bHLHs have been identified as crucial components of vascular development, physiology and disease. In this research group, we are interested in:
- Increasing the understanding of the role of the ID proteins as modulators of vascular remodeling through their interactions with other bHLHs.
- Uncover the molecular basis for regulation of the Wnt/beta-catenin/tcf-LEF pathway by ID3.
- Study of the contributions of the ASCL family of bHLH transcription factors to VSMC biology with a focus on hypertension.
- Systematically analyze the contribution of other under-characterized bHLH to vascular biology.
It is our hope that the elucidation of the intricate gene regulatory networks involving bHLH TFs that govern vascular remodeling and lesion formation will foster the development of novel therapeutic interventions capable of preventing the diseased state.
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