How one researcher is helping us better understand the brain through epigenetics

As a part of her research at the Korb Lab, Erica Korb, an assistant professor of genetics in the Perelman School of Medicine strives to understand mechanisms of epigenetic regulation in the brain. Epigenetic regulation—meaning how the world around us impacts gene expression—is essential to the function of neurons in the brain and aides with the creation of new memories, and more.

Erica Korb.
Erica Korb, assistant professor of genetics at the Perelman School of Medicine. (Image: Penn Medicine)

Using methods such as microscopy, bioinformatics, biochemistry, behavioral testing, and more, Korb and her lab also study the role of histones—which are a group of basic proteins found in chromatin—in neuronal function and in neurodevelopmental disabilities.

“Our lab works at the intersection of neuroscience and epigenetics. Epigenetics, in its broadest sense, explores how our environment can change the expression of our genes,” Korb says. “Epigenetics is incredibly important in the brain and contributes to the creation of new memories, our ability to adapt to our environment, and to the development of neurological disorders.”

Korb’s work is also collaborative, joining new technologies and different labs to bring individuals with very different skills and expertise together.

“I’ve been really fortunate to work with a group of Penn faculty on a SARS-CoV-2 related project. We’re examining a poorly understood protein encoded by SARS-CoV-2 and its role in disrupting host-cell epigenetic regulation,” she says. “We’ve gotten to work with Susan Weiss, Shelley Berger, Ben Garcia, and Ed Morrissey, and learned an incredible amount in the process. It’s been challenging to learn a new field since we are primarily a neuroscience lab but it’s also been incredibly rewarding to have the chance to work with experts and contribute to our understanding of this virus.”

This story is by Tristan Epps. Read more at Penn Medicine News.