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"The heart is a complex organ and its development requires the coordination of many genes. Genes are located within our DNA, which is wrapped around tiny proteins called histones. By placing special tags on these histone proteins, cells can change how tightly the DNA packs itself. In turn, this changes the level at which nearby genes are expressed – tightly packed DNA leads to low expression. At UIC I study how certain histone tags affect the development of the mouse embryo. By modifying the location of these tags, the cell can fine-tune the expression of important genes. In the case of heart development, this fine-tuning is critical. Shown in the image are three sets of hearts dissected from mouse embryos at embryonic day 18.5, just a few days before the mice would be born. The hearts in the middle column were taken from animals missing a protein involved in placing histone tags. As a result, the hearts are malformed, and the animals would die once they are born. My research attempts to understand why these malformations occur, in order to better understand development and disease. The images were taken using a Leica M2-FLIII dissecting microscope and DFC320 camera."