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Helen Willsey, PhD

Title(s)Postdoctoral Scholar, Psychiatry
SchoolSchool of Medicine
Phone415-476-7730
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    Other Positions
    Title(s)UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences


    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 ā€˜convergent phenotypes,ā€™ 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.

    Collapse Bibliographic 
    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. Blackburn ATM, Bekheirnia N, Uma VC, Corkins ME, Xu Y, Rosenfeld JA, Bainbridge MN, Yang Y, Liu P, Madan-Khetarpal S, Delgado MR, Hudgins L, Krantz I, Rodriguez-Buritica D, Wheeler PG, Gazali LA, Mohamed Saeed Mohamed Al Shamsi A, Gomez-Ospina N, Chao HT, Mirzaa GM, Scheuerle AE, Kukolich MK, Scaglia F, Eng C, Willsey HR, Braun MC, Lamb DJ, Miller RK, Bekheirnia MR. DYRK1A-related intellectual disability: a syndrome associated with congenital anomalies of the kidney and urinary tract. Genet Med. 2019 Jul 02. PMID: 31263215.
      View in: PubMed
    2. Willsey HR, Walentek P, Exner CRT, Xu Y, Lane AB, Harland RM, Heald R, Santama N. Katanin-like protein Katnal2 is required for ciliogenesis and brain development in Xenopus embryos. Dev Biol. 2018 10 15; 442(2):276-287. PMID: 30096282.
      View in: PubMed
    3. Willsey AJ, Morris MT, Wang S, Willsey HR, Sun N, Teerikorpi N, Baum TB, Cagney G, Bender KJ, Desai TA, Srivastava D, Davis GW, Doudna J, Chang E, Sohal V, Lowenstein DH, Li H, Agard D, Keiser MJ, Shoichet B, von Zastrow M, Mucke L, Finkbeiner S, Gan L, Sestan N, Ward ME, Huttenhain R, Nowakowski TJ, Bellen HJ, Frank LM, Khokha MK, Lifton RP, Kampmann M, Ideker T, State MW, Krogan NJ. The Psychiatric Cell Map Initiative: A Convergent Systems Biological Approach to Illuminating Key Molecular Pathways in Neuropsychiatric Disorders. Cell. 2018 07 26; 174(3):505-520. PMID: 30053424.
      View in: PubMed
    4. Willsey HR, Zheng X, Carlos Pastor-Pareja J, Willsey AJ, Beachy PA, Xu T. Localized JNK signaling regulates organ size during development. Elife. 2016 03 14; 5. PMID: 26974344.
      View in: PubMed
    5. 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.
      View in: PubMed