Muscle cells in their earliest stages of development give Chrissa Kioussi clues about the origins of disease.
When they are working well, we take muscles for granted. Our hearts beat more than 100,000 times a day without much fanfare. But congenital diseases and injuries take their toll. Muscular dystrophy and cardiovascular problems affect millions. That’s where the challenge starts for Chrissa Kioussi, a developmental biologist in the OSU College of Pharmacy.
Working in the college’s new mouse genetics facility, Kioussi goes back to the earliest stages of life, teasing out the genes that tell muscle cells where to go and what to do at each stage of the developing embryo. Among her tools are mouse embryonic stem cells and mice carrying specific gene mutations.
"To repair or regenerate a tissue, one must understand how it forms in the first place," she says. "Each cell has the same genes, but not all cells are the same. Development restricts the availability of sets of genes in different cells."
Kioussi’s goal is to identify cell types involved in the formation of cardiac and skeletal muscles, to understand their nature and to use them for medical treatments. The March of Dimes and the American Heart Association have supported her work.