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Associate Professor Director, Human Pluripotent Cell Core

Research Interests

Keywords: Genome engineering, stem cells, reprogramming, iPSCs, cell fate and differentiation, organoids, breast cancer organoids

My laboratory focuses on engineering cellular models to gain a systems-level understanding of complex biological processes in health and disease. My contributions in cell biology and cancer research support the efforts of a large academic and clinical community at UNC.

My team’s current efforts in cell biology aim at generating patient-specific disease models by combining induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells and CRISPR from neurodevelopmental disorders in collaboration with other investigators at UNC. These engineered iPSCs can be differentiated into a plethora of cell lineages, including neuronal cell types and specialized cellular systems such as organoids. By integrating genomic, transcriptional, and epigenetic information from RNA and DNA deep sequencing from these models, we aim to gain insight into the molecular pathways that, when dysregulated, translate into neurodevelopmental disorders. Our ultimate goal is to understand these complex systems better, allow their manipulation, and leverage them to generate more targeted therapeutics as well as prevent human disease.

My team’s contribution to Cancer Research involves establishing a breast cancer organoid biobank from primary tissue of breast cancer subtypes in collaboration with investigators at UNC and the LCCC. Active efforts are directed to dissecting the molecular mechanism of widespread transcriptional adaptation to pharmacological treatments, a significant problem for cancer patients and more for triple-negative breast cancer. These breast organoid models provide a comprehensive system to test drug resistance and translate drug efficacy into the clinic.

Mentor Training:

  • Bias 101
  • DEI Program Part 1 – Unconscious Bias
  • Mental Health First Aid
  • OGE Mentor Training: Train The Trainer

Courses Taught:

  • PHCO 744 Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine
  • GNET 760 CRISPR-Based Genome Engineering


Lab Members:

  • Sarahi Molina, Research Technician
  • Lorena J. Munoz, Research Technician
  • Ariana Marquez, Research Associate
  • Sonja Mihailovic, Graduate Student, Genetics and Molecular Biology, Co-advised with Jeremy Purvis

Adriana Beltran in UNC Genetics News

Adriana Beltran
  • Genetics and Pharmacology

  • Human Pluripotent Cell Core