Melanie Carless, Ph.D.
Phone: (210) 458-7017
Ph.D.; Griffith University, Gold Coast, Australia
BHSc Hons; Griffith University, Gold Coast, Australia
BSc; Griffith University, Gold Coast, Australia
Dr. Carless' research focuses on identifying genetic and epigenetic factors associated with complex diseases, and in understanding how these might contribute to disease risk, and be leveraged as potential novel therapies. She is particularly interested in how epigenetic mechanisms such as DNA methylation, DNA hydroxymethylation, and microRNAs contribute to gene regulation, and consequently risk for metabolic disorders (e.g., diabetes and obesity) and neurological and psychiatric diseases (e.g., Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder). To accomplish this, her laboratory employs a range of approaches, including cohort-based studies, post-mortem tissue analysis, animal models and cell-based systems, as well as cutting-edge technologies, including stem cells, organoids, next-generation sequencing and epigenetic editing using the CRISPR/dCas9 system.
Dr. Carless has several ongoing projects in her laboratory, including pilot projects in the early stages of development. As part of a collaborative study, the laboratory is investigating the role of DNA methylation in energy homeostasis and obesity in Hispanic children, they are incorporating next-generation sequencing and epigenetic editing of stem cell-derived human skeletal muscle cells to understand how DNA methylation might mediate energy-related phenotypes to increase risk for obesity. The laboratory is also using epigenetic editing to study how altered DNA methylation in stem cell-derived neurons might impact the production of amyloid beta in cell lines from patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Additionally, Dr. Carless is investigating how DNA hydroxymethylation changes during neurodevelopment, using cortical spheroids (organoids) as a proxy, and how this might be altered in cell lines derived from patients with bipolar disorder. Finally, the laboratory also focuses on developing and optimizing improved technologies for epigenetic editing and next-generation sequencing.