Alaina Urman is a recent graduate of Charleston Southern University where she received her Bachelor of Science degree in Biology and Spanish. She is interested in studying epigenetic modifications and how they relate to different diseases, aging, and cancer. Alaina is also devoted to increasing health equity through science by including samples of underrepresented groups in experiments and analyzing data through an inclusive lens that recognizes the inequities between groups. In the future, she hopes to receive her PhD and later become a professor and principal investigator in her own laboratory.
Under the mentorship of Dr. John Edwards, I am developing novel techniques for integrated single-cell methylcytosine (5mC) and hydroxymethylcytosine (5hmC) analysis. 5hmC is generated through oxidation of 5mC by the Ten-Eleven Translocation enzyme which is associated with different neural developmental disorders like Rhett syndrome, along with aging, and cancer. Measuring genome-wide DNA methylation levels in single cells will lead to important insights into transcriptional regulation and cellular heterogeneity, as well as refine our understanding of how methylation patterns at specific loci are established and inherited during cell divisions. We are one of few labs to execute single-cell bisulfite sequencing, which is the current gold standard for mapping DNA methylation. However, this technique can only distinguish the difference between methylated and unmethylated cytosines and does not discriminate between methylation and hydroxymethylation. Consequently, there is a need to develop new techniques to map 5mC and 5hmC in individual cell types.