I am a fourth year PhD student in Dr. Aziz Aboobaker’s group. After an undergraduate degree in Biochemistry and an MSc degree in Molecular Parasitology during which I worked with the model organism Caenorhabditis elegans, I developed interest in stem cell biology and regeneration and decided to do a PhD using the freshwater flatworm Schmidtea mediterranea as a model organism.
One novel way to look at the process of regeneration is by investigating epigenetic mechanisms, such as DNA methylation. While we couldn’t find any detectable methylation levels in the S. mediterranea genome knock down of Smed-mbd2/3, a gene expressing a methyl-CpG binding domain protein, caused major defects in the regeneration process. Worms failed to form or maintain different organs. Combining different techniques such as RNA interference (RNAi), in situ hybridisation, immunohistochemistry and real time quantitative PCR, I was able to analyse the function of Smed-mbd2/3 gene and its effect on stem cell maintenance and differentiation.
To investigate any possible downstream effects of Smed-mbd2/3, which in some other organisms leads to transcriptional repression, we are analyzing the transcriptome of Smed-mbd2/3(RNAi) animals and performing an RNAi screen to find affected genes that may explain the mbd2/3 phenotype further.
This project is still ongoing and Yuliana Mihaylova, another PhD student in the Aboobaker lab, is continuing the work. I am currently writing my thesis and will finish this summer.
Tan T.C.J , Rahman R. , Jaber-Hijazi F. , Felix D.A. , Chen C. , Louis E.J and Aboobaker A.A. (2012). Telomere maintenance and telomerase activity are differentially regulated in asexual and sexual worms. Proceedings of The National Academy of Sciences of The United States of America 109(11): 4209-4214.
Solana J., Kao D., Mihaylova Y., Jaber-Hijazi F., Malla S., Wilson R. and Aboobaker A. (2012). Defining the molecular profile of planarian pluripotent stem cells using a combinatorial RNA-seq, RNAi and irradiation approach. Genome Biology 13 (3):R19
Maitrise in Biochemistry, The Lebanese University (2006).
MSc (with distinction) in Molecular Parasitology and Vector Biology, The Universities of Manchester, Salford and Keele (2008).
PhD in Genetics, The University of Nottingham (current).