Owens Lab

The Owens Lab

For more information on all of our members, just click on the left!

Owens Lab

Gary Owens, Ph.D.
Principle Investigator


Gary K. Owens, Ph.D is a Professor in the Departments of Molecular Physiology and Biological Physics and the Department of Medicine, Division of Cardiology. Dr. Owens also is the Director of the Robert M. Berne Cardiovascular Research Center.

Laura Shankman, PhD
Senior Scientist/Lab Manager


Rebecca Deaton, PhD
Research Scientist


Angela Washington
Lab Specialist


Rupa Tripathi
Assistant Lab manager


Rupa has been with the Owens Lab for over sixteen years. She runs the cell culture core in the lab and helps with all cell culture experiments, including primary smooth muscle cell isolation, aortic explants, cell proliferation and migration assays. Rupa also manage the lab inventory and equipment, as well as making orders for supplies to the entire lab.

Santosh Karnewar, PhD
Postdoctoral Research Associate


I am Santosh Karnewar. I obtained my B.Sc. in Biotechnology, Zoology and Chemistry from NIZAM College (Autonomous) and MSc in Biochemistry from University College of Science (Osmania University) in India. I have completed my PhD with Dr. Srigiridhar Kotamraju at Chemical Biology department, CSIR-Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (AcSIR) in June 2017. My PhD thesis was on “Studies on the role of AMPK-mediated pathways during atherosclerosis and preventive strategies”.

As a graduate student I have studied age-associated atherosclerosis in Apo E-/- mice and now I joined the Dr.Owens lab in September 2017. In my project we will test the hypothesis that “Age associated changes in Smooth Muscle Cell and/or Endothelial Cell function negatively impact late stage atherosclerotic lesion pathogenesis by using unique mouse models. We will also study the skin wound healing and vascular injury-repair in young and aged SMC lineage tracing non-ApoE KO WT and SMC Oct4 and/or Klf4 KO mice. Klf4 and Oct4 KO models are unique models and Owens group reported in recent publications, Laura S Shankman (2015- nature medicine) and Olga A Cherepanova (2016- nature medicine).

Selected Publications:

  1. Katta S, Karnewar S, Panuganti D, Jerald MK, Sastry B.K, Kotamraju S. Mitochondria-targeted esculetin inhibits PAI-1 levels by modulating STAT3 activation and miR-19b via SIRT3: Role in acute coronary artery syndrome. J Cell Physiol. 2017; 9999:1–12.
  2. Karnewar S, Vasamsetti SB, Gopoju R, Kanugula AK, Ganji SK, Sripadi P, Rangaraj N, Tupperwar N, JM Kumar, Kotamraju S: Mitochondria-targeted esculetin alleviates mitochondrial dysfunction by AMPK-mediated nitric oxide and SIRT3 regulation in endothelial cells: potential implications in atherosclerosis. Scientific Reports. 2016; 6, 24108.
  3. Vasamsetti SB, Karnewar S, Gopoju R, Gollavilli PN, Narra SR, JM Kumar, Kotamraju S: Resveratrol attenuates monocyte-to-macrophage differentiation and associated inflammation via modulation of intracellular GSH homeostasis: Relevance in atherosclerosis. FRBM 05/2016; 96.
  4. Vasamsetti SB, Karnewar S, Kanugula AK, Raj AT, Kumar JM, Kotamraju S: Metformin inhibits monocyte-to-macrophage differentiation via AMPK mediated inhibition of STAT3 activation: Potential role in atherosclerosis. Diabetes. 2015 Jun; 64(6):2028-41.
  5. Khatua TN, Padiya R, Karnewar S, Kuncha M, Agawane SB, Kotamraju S, Banerjee SK: Garlic provides protection to mice heart against isoproterenol-induced oxidative damage: Role of nitric oxide. Nitric Oxide 03/2012; 27(1):9-17.


  1. Kotamraju S, Karnewar S, Vasamsetti SB, Togapur PK, BVS Reddy, JM Kumar: An Antioxidant compound having anti atherosclerotic effect and preparation thereof. Ref. No: 15/047,842-USA 2-19-2016, GB-L&S Ref No. : PD019488GB-CON,: 478/DEL-19 -FEB-2015-INDIA, Year: 02/2015.
  2. Raji Reddy, Ch.; Srigiridhar, K.; Santosh, K.; Babu, B. N.; Nagasenkar, A.; Anuradha, S. C5, C6 Substituted and/or fused oxindoles as anti-cancer agents and process for preparation thereof (File no. 201611037409, 2016).
  3. SP Singh, Thumuganti G, Kotamraju S, Karnewar S. A patent has been filed entitled “Novel Borondipyrromethene Fluorochromes Tailored with Phenoxymethylpyridine and Application as for” 0067NF2017.

Gamze Bulut, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow


My name is Gamze Bulut. I obtained my B.Sc. in Molecular Biology and Genetics from Bilkent University in Turkey. Then I moved to USA in 2008 to do my Ph.D. at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, TX. I worked in Dr. Lily Huang's laboratory in Department of Cell Biology. My Ph.D. thesis was on "Ubiquitination of Erythropoietin Receptor (EpoR) and p85 in ligand induced EpoR down regulation", which involved studying cell biology and protein modifications. Then we moved to Richmond, VA for my husband's new job at VCU Computer Science.

I started my postdoctoral training in Dr. Charles Chalfant's laboratory in October 2015 investigating the alternative splicing of Caspase 9 by the RNA trans factor hnRNP L to produce a gain of function variant called Caspase 9b. My brief postdoc in the Chalfant lab involved characterization of a transgenic mouse line expressing human Caspase 9b in the lung, cooperation with oncogenes in lung cancer formation, recombinant protein purification using baculovirus system and RNA protein binding through EMSA assays.

Dr. Chalfant and his lab moved to Florida and I have joined Dr. Gary Owens's laboratory at the Cardiovascular Research Center at University of Virginia in September 2017. Owens lab studies smooth muscle cell (SMC) phenotype switching using unique lineage tracing mouse models. My project is about diet induced obesity and how microvasculature is affected within the pathological adipose depots. Specifically, we will investigate the phenotypic switching of SMC upon diet induced obesity and the role of pluripotency factor Klf4 in these changes using different lineage tracing models. We will also generate new mouse models to investigate the effect of gender on atherosclerosis.

Vlad Serbulea, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow


Gabriel Falcao Alencar, PhD
Biostatistician / Bioinformatician


My name is Gabriel Falcao Alencar and I am currently a second year at the Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics program at UVa. I did both my undergrad (Biological Sciences) and my Master's degree (Medical Sciences - Human Genetics) at the University of Brasilia - Brazil, where I am from. After finishing my Master's degree, I came to the USA to work at the Hereditary Genomics Lab at the University of Kentucky under Dr. James Hartsfield. There, my research was mainly identifying genetic loci involved in the development of orthodontics problems, such as mandibular prognathism (theme of my Master's thesis), as well as familial non-medullary cancer, ovarian cancer, and aging.

My main project in the Owens' Lab is: "KLF4 dependent maintenance of microvascular integrity". It is well established that the transcription factor KLF4 is not expressed in smooth muscle cells (SMC) in large conduit arteries in healthy mature animals. However, it appears to be expressed in SMC and pericytes (SMC-P) of the microvasculature and have a functional, and potentially physiological, role in the correct maintenance of perivascular coverage. It is also important to note that alterations within the microvasculature play a key role in the development of cardiovascular disease and complications of diabetes. Therefore, I am trying to identify how KLF4 recruitment, maintenance and/or survival of the SMC-P within the microvasculature in a healthy animal model.

I am also interested in computational biology and using high-throughput sequence data to investigate the role of histone markers and transcription factors in the differentiation/de-differentiation of SMC-P, both in injury models as well as in vitro models, and in disease. To date, we have generated and analyzed ChIP-seq (chromatin imunnoprecipitation sequence) datasets for KLF4 in an atherosclerosis setting and in mesentery of healthy animals, as well as RNA-seq of OCT4 and KLF4 KO in different models.

Katherine (Katie) Owsiany
MD/PhD student