Meredith Wilson, a postdoctoral associate in Steve Farber’s lab at the Department of Embryology, has been awarded Carnegie’s thirteenth Postdoctoral Innovation and Excellence Award. These prizes are given to postdocs for their exceptionally creative approaches to science, strong mentoring, and contributing to the sense of campus community. The nominations are made by the departments and are chosen by the Office of the President. The recipients receive a cash prize and are celebrated at an event at their departments.
Wilson came to Carnegie in 2014 from the University of Pennsylvania with a background in cell biology investigating how motor proteins position nuclei in developing muscle cells. She joined the Farber lab to apply her training in cell biology and interest in metabolism to investigate cellular processes regulating the absorption and transport of dietary fat in vivo. Using molecular biology techniques and state-of-the-art imaging in the optically-clear zebrafish larvae, the Farber lab investigates fundamental questions about how the body processes and stores lipids.
Early in Wilson’s research, she realized that the appearance of the zebrafish yolk can be a way to identify abnormalities in lipid processing. Using this approach, Wilson and collaborators identified a mutation in microsomal triglyceride transfer protein (MTTP), a protein essential in the intestine and liver for moving triglycerides and other types of lipids into ApoB-containing lipoproteins. These particles transport lipids through the body, but when elevated, they are a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death worldwide. MTTP was a target by pharmaceutical companies for drug development, but the inhibitors they created cause severe gastrointestinal side effects. The new zebrafish mutation identifies a critical region of the protein important for a specific type of lipid transport. When the equivalent mutation was made in the human MTTP protein, it gave the same biochemical phenotype as the zebrafish protein. These findings suggest a new strategy to develop a better side-effect-free MTTP inhibitor to potentially treat human diseases resulting from elevated levels of plasma lipids.
In addition to her work in the lab, Wilson contributes to training and mentoring the next generation of scientists as a teaching assistant for the zebrafish course at the Marine Biological Laboratory and as a volunteer with BioEYES, a hands-on STEM outreach effort based at Carnegie. She helped organize a local lipid biology meeting that was open to scientists in the Carnegie and greater Baltimore research communities. Wilson also earned a Postdoctoral Fellowship from the National Institutes of Health to support her scientific research.
Steve Farber, her Carnegie mentor, remarked, “She is one of the hardest working postdocs I have ever known. I am continually impressed by Meredith’s creativity, intelligence, and meticulous scientific skills. She is most deserving of this recognition.”
Carnegie president Eric D. Isaacs said, “Andrew Carnegie founded this institution to support particularly creative researchers who are willing to pursue new and often unexplored directions. Meredith Wilson is just that kind of scientist and we applaud her for her fundamental work that could significantly benefit human health in the coming years.”