Yen-Lin Chen, PhD, Awarded NIH Pathway to Independence K99/R00 Award

Yen-Lin Chen, PhD, a research scientist in Sonkusare Lab in the Robert M. Berne Cardiovascular Research Center (CVRC), was awarded the NIH Pathway to Independence (K99/R00) Award. This award will support studies of the role of lymph vessel calcium signaling mechanisms in obesity. NIH’s K99/R00 program provides mentored and independent research support for promising postdoctoral scientists. Swapnil Sonkusare, PhD, an associate professor at the CVRC and the Department of Molecular Physiology and Biological Physics, serves as the primary mentor on this grant.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports, nearly 42% of the US population suffers from obesity. Obesity is a major risk factor for heart disease, hypertension, stroke, and diabetes. Emerging evidence points to an important link between disruption of lymph vessel barrier and obesity. Compromised lymph function has also been linked with tissue edema in obesity.

Lymph vessel barrier function is controlled, in part, by calcium signaling mechanisms in the vessel wall. Recent work demonstrates the importance of calcium entry mechanisms in lymph vessel walls in regulating the barrier function of lymph vessels. Dr. Chen’s research will identify the ion channel proteins that enable calcium entry into the lymph vessel wall, their signaling partners, and their contribution to weight gain in obesity. The overall goal is to identify novel calcium signaling mechanisms that maintain the barrier function of lymph vessels and regulate weight gain in obesity.