NDUFS4, miR-27b and Cardiac Hypertrophy

Norma Marshall

Email: normamarshall2023@u.northwestern.edu


Norma is majoring in Biological Sciences and minoring in Global Health Studies. She has been interested in research since high school and previously worked on investigating the genetic basis of obesity and its association with non alcoholic fatty liver disease. Currently she is working with others on a project to develop a prostate cancer risk calculator in African American men. 


Cardiac hypertrophy, the enlargement of the heart, is often implicated in heart failure and other complications. Although it can be physiological, pathological hypertrophy is often associated with obesity, high blood pressure, and other preexisting conditions. Mitochondria is especially important in the functioning of the heart because it provides the energy required for the heart to pump blood normally. There is a protein, NDUFS4, that encodes for an important subunit in the mitochondria. There is also mi-R27b, a microRNA that inhibits expression of certain genes, that is often upregulated in heart failure. My research topic is about the genetic links between the mitochondria, NDUFS4, miR-27b, and cardiac hypertrophy.

My research came about after a systems genetics review that attempts to associate certain traits and phenotypes with the genes that might code for them. About 100 inbred strains of mice and their genetic diversity was used to study metabolic traits present in humans such as obesity, diabetes, and heart failure. Over 800 proteins from 3 chromosomes were mapped and NDUFS4 was closely matched to an area in chromosome 13 that also included one of the complexes that are important for efficient cellular respiration.

Hopefully I see this leading into using miR-27b as a biomarker for metabolic diseases. More research would further define and establish the connection between miR-27b, NDUFS4 andcardiac hypertrophy. I hope from there miR-27b can also be used to diagnose many metabolic diseases without invasive biopsies.

After graduation I hope to head to graduate school and investigate similar topics to find the genetic relationships within diseases. I also hope to do this on a more social sense and investigate factors such as race and socioeconomic factor on diseases as well.

Norma Marshall was a 2020 SURG winner.