Fordham professor researches epigenetic regulation

Alma Rodenas-Ruano hopes that her research could potentially shed some light on the causes of and preventative methods for neurological illnesses. | File photo

Fordham University Assistant Professor of Biology Alma Rodenas-Ruano received a Grass Fellowship to spend the summer at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Massachusetts, where she is working on research on epigenetic regulation.

“I’m interested in the neurological events that occur during what we call critical periods of development,” Rodenas-Ruano said. “As the name suggests, these are critical events that must happen for normal function to occur.”

Using zebrafish as her subjects, Rodenas-Ruano studies how normal development can be impacted by changes or disruptions to epigenetic factors, like a newborn being even temporarily separated from its mother. She hypothesizes that similar changes could occur in newborn humans, and hopes that her research could potentially shed some light on the causes of and preventative methods for neurological illnesses like epilepsy and schizophrenia.

“Most diseases are multifactorial, and so we want to understand the exact triggers that make a person vulnerable,” she said. “We first have to identify and understand the basic mechanisms that contribute to normal function. Then, we see what happens if we disrupt these mechanisms — both what happens at first and what happens later on in a mature brain.”

Rodenas-Ruano will continue her work at Fordham University when she returns in the fall.

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