Lucy Liaw, PhD
Faculty Scientist III
Center for Molecular Medicine

Liaw Lab

Tackling cardiometabolic disease

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of mortality in our country, and the obesity epidemic has amplified this public health problem. Our research focuses on cellular interactions and signaling and molecular mechanisms that impact cardiovascular disease. In particular, we are interested in cells of the vessel wall and the surrounding perivascular adipose tissue (PVAT). The blood vessel and surrounding adipose tissue form a local vascular microenvironment that regulates susceptibility to vascular disease. To study these interactions, we are identifying protein signatures of PVAT in human donors with different levels of cardiovascular disease, and also using mouse models of obesity and vascular disease. Conversely, our mouse models also allow us to evaluate PVAT in the context of anti-aging dietary conditions, such as methionine restriction or calorie restriction. Using these models, we are studying adipose progenitor cell characteristics, differentiation capacity, PVAT phenotype, and effects on vascular physiology.

Our laboratory also runs our institutional Mouse Genome Modification Resource, and develop mouse models of human disease using CRISPR/Cas techniques and traditional transgenic microinjection procedures. We perform gene/protein analysis and develop research plans for targeting, as well as develop molecular reagents, perform microinjection, and establish and perform initial genotyping. Other services include a mouse germplasm cryopreservation program and a re-derivation program.

A fully differentiated 3D adiposphere stained for Actin filaments (green), lipids (red) and nuclei (blue).

Notch3 co-localization with contractile SMC in atherosclerotic lesion. Aorta sections from a Myh11-CreERT2 ROSA floxed STOP eYFP Apoe−/− SMC lineage tracing mouse with advanced atherosclerotic lesion was immunostained for Notch3/GFP with DAPI nuclear staining in blue. Yellow arrowheads indicate Notch3 positive SMC in the fibrous cap while cyan arrowhead indicates a Notch3 negative cell of SMC origin. Scale bar is 50 μm.

Rab27a and lipid specific staining in a 3D adiposphere.  An adiposphere is a 3D model of adipose tissue.  Rab27a (red) is a trafficking molecule implicated in adipogenesis.  Perilipin (white) and lipidTOX (green) are lipid markers.