Bayli Divita

Mentor: Dr. Naohiro Terada
College of Medicine
 
"When I was just 12 years old, my mother was diagnosed with colon cancer. Although I could not fully grasp what cancer was or how profoundly it would affect my life, I knew that from that day on, it was my goal to join the research field and commit myself to making strides against cancer. I would like to greatly contribute to furthering modern medicine and I believe that research is the best way for me to do that. "

Major

Biology

Minor

N/A

Research Interests

  • Stem cells
  • Cancer
  • Targeted therapies

Academic Awards

  • Alonzo Rollins Scholarship
  • Florida Medallion Scholars Award
  • University Scholars

Organizations

  • Center for Undergraduate Research Board of Students
  • Delta Epsilon Iota
  • Sailing Club

Volunteer

  • UF Health Cancer Center
  • Fox Lake Farms

Hobbies and Interests

  • Hiking
  • Paddleboarding
  • Horseback riding

Research Description

Characterizing Endothelial Cells from Patient-Derived iPSCs
Endothelial cells are important in many settings as they are in direct contact with the blood and tissues and are an important factor of the vascular system because of their sensitivity to environmental cues like that of inflammation. Smooth muscle cells (SMCs) surround majority of the endothelial cells and are responsible for the rigidity of vessels. The endothelial cells control vasoconstriction and vasodilation of the vessels by sending signals to the SMCs. An alternative to embryonic stem cells are induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC), adult cells that are reprogrammed to a stem cell state that closely resembles embryonic stem cell state by expressing specific stem cell genes. Our laboratory has extensive experience using iPSCs and have started a collaboration with pharmacogenomics. Our goal is to utilize patient-derived iPSCs to model hypertension. As previously mentioned, endothelial cells and SMCs are important cell types in hypertension response and therefore we will pursue the differentiation of iPSCs to these cells. Then, we will evaluate typical endothelial cell and SMC phenotype and function of iPSCs differentiated to endothelial and SMC lineages. The ultimate goal is to utilize this in vitro system to better model hypertension in patients by understanding the biology in drug response. The heterogeneity of humans makes medicine difficult, as many patients respond well to some drugs, but not to others. By using this model, personal medicine could be attainable. Using patient- derived stem cells in vitro to model diseases and medicines could one day be a better alternative to the currently widely-used mouse models, as we would be testing cells from an actual patient. With this, we hope to be able to obtain more responsive therapies and hopefully, improve and save more lives. This could be utilized as a system for a wide variety of diseases.