Helen Willsey, PhD

TitlePostdoctoral Scholar
SchoolUCSF School of Medicine
Address1550 Fourth St
San Francisco CA 94158
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    Collapse Biography 
    Collapse Education and Training
    Duke UniversityBS2009Biology
    Yale UniversityPhD2015Genetics
    University of California, BerkeleyPostdoc2016MCB
    Collapse Awards and Honors
    UC Berkeley20161st Place, Postdoc Poster, GGD Retreat
    International Xenopus Meeting20161st Place, Postdoc Poster
    Yale University20161st Place, Beauty in Science Image Competition
    Yale University2015Carolyn Slayman Outstanding Genetics Thesis Prize
    CSHL, Xenopus Course20151st Place, Image Competition
    Yale University2013Best Research in Progress Seminar, Genetics Department
    Yale University2011Best Poster Award, Genetics Department Retreat
    Duke University2009Summa cum laude
    Duke University2009Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society
    Duke University2009Edward C. Horn Memorial Prize for Excellence in Biology

    Collapse Overview 
    Collapse Overview
    Helen is interested in understanding how Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)-associated genes function during neurodevelopment. Despite the genetic heterogeneity of ASD, several lines of evidence suggest that ASD-associated genes share common molecular underpinnings. To identify these common mechanisms, Helen leverages CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing with the diploid frog model Xenopus tropicalis. Due to the speed of frog development, Helen can rapidly study the loss of function phenotype of many ASD genes in parallel. Specifically, she injects Cas9 protein and a single guide RNA (sgRNA) against an ASD gene at the two-cell embryo stage, generating animals in which exactly half the body (separated by the midline) is mutant, allowing for direct comparison of mutant and control cells in the same animal. Helen uses a variety of techniques to identify ‘convergent phenotypes,’ including RNAseq, in situ hybridization, and immunostaining. In this way, Helen's work is aimed at identifying phenotypes most relevant to ASD pathology to provide a path forward for understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying ASD.

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    Collapse Publications
    Publications listed below are automatically derived from MEDLINE/PubMed and other sources, which might result in incorrect or missing publications. Researchers can login to make corrections and additions, or contact us for help.
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    1. Willsey HR, Zheng X, Carlos Pastor-Pareja J, Willsey H, Beachy PA, Xu T. Localized JNK signaling regulates organ size during development. Elife. 2016 Mar 14; 5. PMID: 26974344; PMCID: PMC4848088.
    2. Maynard JC, Pham T, Zheng T, Jockheck-Clark A, Rankin HB, Newgard CB, Spana EP, Nicchitta CV. Gp93, the Drosophila GRP94 ortholog, is required for gut epithelial homeostasis and nutrient assimilation-coupled growth control. Dev Biol. 2010 Mar 15; 339(2):295-306. PMID: 20044986; PMCID: PMC2830396.
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