Alison Li

Dr. Alison Li’s research is focused on the molecular mechanisms of the cardiac ion channels called the ryanodine receptors (RyR2s). RyR2s are exceptionally large proteins that tightly control the amount of calcium in cardiac cells to maintain normal heartbeats. RyR2 mutations are linked to arrhythmia, and in some serious cases, can lead to catecholaminergic polymorphic ventricular tachycardia (CPVT), one of the leading causes of sudden death in young populations. Despite of CPVT’s discovery five decades ago, current treatment still relies on symptom relief. This is due to the lack of understanding of the CPVT disease mechanism. Under the supervision of Dr. van Petegem, Li will be using cryo-electron microscopy to solve the first structures of two CPVT-linked RyR2 mutants and then compare them to the wild type, allowing us to see the effect of the mutations on the structure and function of RyR2 at the atomic level. Subsequently, their interactions with potential drug candidates will be studied in minute detail. The structural information on CPVT-linked RyRs will reveal their key interactions and facilitate the development of novel and potent drug treatments for cardiac arrhythmia.