Postdoctoral Research Scientist
I completed my undergraduate degree in Biosciences and an MSc in Biomedicine at the University of Muenster in Germany. I then studied for a PhD in Cardiovascular Science at the University of Oxford. Under the supervision of Prof Paul Riley, Dr Filipa Simoes and Prof Roger Patient, I investigated the cellular composition of the developing zebrafish epicardium. I was furthermore supported by a close collaboration with Prof Tatjana Sauka-Spengler and her group at the MRC Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine.
The epicardium is a layer of cells that envelops the heart muscle and is crucial for both cardiac development and heart regeneration in the adult zebrafish. The epicardium fulfils a variety of functions in these contexts, such as regulating the behaviour of other cardiac cell types. We therefore wondered whether it might consist of multiple, functionally specialised subpopulations of cells. By combining fluorescent labelling of epicardial cells in vivo, single cell RNA sequencing and CRISPR-Cas9 mediated marker gene knockout, I identified three populations of epicardial cells in the developing zebrafish. These populations showed specific gene expression patterns and fulfilled distinct functions, for example guiding the migration of other cell types into the developing heart.
In 2017, I moved to a postdoctoral research position in the Riley group and continued working on this project, which we recently published (Functional Heterogeneity within the Developing Zebrafish Epicardium, Weinberger, Simoes et al., DevCell 2020). Currently, I am studying more closely the genomic regulation that underlies the heterogeneity in epicardial gene expression and function.
Distinct epicardial gene regulatory programmes drive development and regeneration of the zebrafish heart
DA COSTA SIMOES ANA. et al, (2021), bioRxiv