The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston
McGovern Medical School
Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences
Psychiatric disorders are known to present extremely complex neurobiological mechanisms and a multifactorial genetic basis, i.e., their onset is thought to require the interaction between a susceptible genotype and various environmental stimuli. Epigenetic mechanisms, which can mediate this interaction and significantly alter gene activity without entailing changes in the DNA sequence, have been proposed as key mediators of behavioral alterations and of the onset and treatment of these disorders. My research program focuses on the discovery of the epigenetic underpinnings of psychiatric disorders, with a focus on mood disorders, addiction, and suicide. My studies revolve around the hypothesis that DNA methylation, histone modifications, and non-coding RNAs can modulate specific cell signaling pathways both in brain and in peripheral tissues, such as those involved in the response to stress, and thereby increase one’s susceptibility to a particular behavioral alteration.
Experimental approaches include translational research with clinical datasets, investigation of post-mortem brain tissue and blood from patients and controls, experimental and bioinformatics investigation of genomic, epigenomic, and transcriptomic data, cell culture studies, and various molecular biology and biochemistry techniques. Currently ongoing projects are focused on the DNA methylation and hydroxymethylation biosignatures of suicidal behavior and the role of epigenetic mechanisms in the accelerated aging in bipolar disorder.
Education & Training
Ph.D. - Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul - 2014