University or Institution

University of Florida

Area of Research:

Our collaborative team of basic and clinical scientists from the Colleges of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine at the University of Florida (UF) in collaboration with the University of Minnesota (UMN) Medical School applies inter-related translational science to develop animal models relevant to veterinary medicine and human health. UF and UMN provide uniquely collaborative sites for training in academic veterinary medicine with existing interdisciplinary and collaborative interactions between faculty members that facilitate training of academic veterinary medicine scholars for independent careers as clinician-scientists to study questions related to cardiac and neurological disease and develop effective therapeutic strategies.

Primary Mentor:

Amara Estrada, D.V.M., Diplomate ACVIM (Cardiology) [email protected]

Mentor Team:

  • Christopher Vulpe, M.D., Ph.D., University of Florida (Department of Physiological Sciences)
  • Christopher Martyniuk, Ph.D., University of Florida (Department of Physiological Sciences)
  • Peter Kang, M.D. University of Minnesota (Neurology Department)
  • Christina Pacak, Ph.D. University of Minnesota (Neurology Department)

Description of Potential Research Project(s):

Specific areas of research include the development of gene therapies, the genetics of muscular dystrophies, the intersecting roles of environmental exposures and genetics in neurodegenerative diseases (Degenerative Myelopathy, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s disease), and Inherited/Familial cardiomyopathy of dogs and humans (Dilated Cardiomyopathy and Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy). Our team science approach takes advantage of the singular capabilities of veterinary model systems to model human and veterinary disease. Our focus and primary research goals are the reprogramming of somatic cells derived from veterinary animal models for induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) generation. We differentiate iPSCs into appropriate tissue models (cardiomyocytes, myotubes, cerebral brain organoids) which allow us to use integrated approaches to 1) answer basic mechanistic questions about disease development and 2) translate this information into discovery of novel therapeutic targets and treatments relevant to both animal and human health. We apply state of the art methods including mitochondrial bioenergetics, genomics, genome editing technologies (CRISPR), adeno-associated virus (AAV) mediated gene therapies and high throughput drug testing methodologies.


Applicants for this fellowship opportunity would have the opportunity to participate in one or a combination of the following activities: work with iPSC lines to reprogram and study specific veterinary and human diseases mentioned above such as the role of mitochondrial dysfunction in neurodegenerative diseases, neuromuscular disorders, or cardiomyopathies, use of AAV mediated gene therapies for either gene replacement or genome editing based strategies to treat inherited disorders, evaluate for alterations in metabolomics in disease, and basic development of novel genome editing technologies.

Additional Training Opportunities:

Conferences relevant to the specific research project will be suggested to the trainee as possibilities to attend and present research during the training period. The trainee is expected to attend at least one per year to present research, network with leaders in their field, and enable development of a national reputation. At UF, the trainee will be encouraged to attend and participate in the Mentoring Academy as well as the UF Clinical Translational Science Institute (CTSI) K-College Career Development Series which provide training in grant preparation, publication submission, lab management, and development of leadership qualities. Additionally, the UF Office of Postdoctoral Affairs provides a variety of resources to support professional development. Examples include: a university-wide postdoctoral seminar series to encourage cross-interdisciplinary networking and collaborations and provide public speaking feedback to trainees, a postdoctoral editors association, a variety of career panel discussions, interview preparation workshops, building scientific communication strategies, etc.. At UMN, the trainee will be encouraged to participate in the following as appropriate: 1) the Center for Genomic Engineering which provides seminars, workshops, and trainee support to attend conferences and perform exploratory pilot experiments, 2) seminars and workshops provided by the Wellstone Muscular Dystrophy Center, the Institute for Health Informatics, the Institute on the Biology of Aging and Metabolism (iBAM), and 3) make use of the Postdoctoral Scholar Toolkit and career support through the Office of Postdoctoral Initiatives (writing events, career counseling, professional development, new faculty preparation program, etc.).


Contact Information for Interested Potential Trainees:

Amara Estrada, D.V.M., Diplomate ACVIM (Cardiology) [email protected]