Neuronal gene regulation and chromatin.

The Heller Lab studies the gene regulatory mechanisms that underlie psychiatric disease. To approach this problem, we apply preclinical mouse paradigms of drug addiction and depression to define functionally relevant histone modifications and transcription factors. Because the syndromes of addiction and depression persist long after cessation of the insult, chromatin remodeling is an attractive mechanism for such long-lasting effects and presents an intriguing target for therapeutic intervention. We use high-throughput sequencing and bioinformatic approaches, including machine learning, to identify genes at which drug- or stress-regulation of the epigenome correlates with changes in gene expression. Using novel epigenetic editing tools, we then target individual modifications and examine their causal relevance to transcription and behavior. This ‘bottom-up’ approach allows direct elucidation of the causal relevance of epigenetic remodeling in the brain.

Latest News

Feb 12
February 9th 2024 – Kiara Rodríguez presents at Friday Genetics Research Talks

PhD student Kiara Rodríguez-Acevedo from the Genetics and Epigenetics Program presented her work on acute stress and sex-specific regulation of Cdk5.

Jan 16
January 16th 2024 – Heller Lab supports SOL Collective

SOL Collective is a harm reduction collective based in Philadelphia that provides aid and resources to people struggling with substance use disorder. The Heller lab is excited to support their mission.

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Jan 12
January 12th 2024 – Laura Sichlinger joins lab as new Postdoctoral Fellow

The Heller lab is thrilled to welcome new postdoc Laura Sichlinger.


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Dr. Heller is a faculty leader of the Trainee Advocacy Alliance (TAA), a collaborative group of Biomedical Graduate Studies (BGS) graduate students, Biomedical Postdoctoral Program (BPP) post-docs, and Penn faculty members who are committed to creating, nurturing, and maintaining a Penn biomedical research community that embodies inclusivity, diversity, and equity.

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