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Welcome to the Burnette Lab!

In the Burnette Lab, we embark on a captivating journey into the mysteries of cell biology with a sense of wonderment and curiosity. Our multidisciplinary research delves into understanding the growth of the human heart on a single-cell level. By employing cutting-edge scientific methodologies, we unravel the intricate processes that drive cardiac myocyte development.

Cell division, the driver of hyperplastic growth, paves the way for early heart development, increasing the number of heart cells as the organ grows. Subsequently, hypertrophic growth involves the enlargement of cardiac myocytes, a vital process during the later stages of human development and in response to exercise. We explore the fascinating physical forces behind these growth processes, largely driven by the myosin II-based contractile machinery. Our research extends into the sub-cellular mechanisms controlling contractile system dynamics between cells. By studying cellular adhesions that myocytes utilize to communicate and pull on their neighbors, we gain insights into how sarcomeres and mitochondria assemble during cell enlargement. Mechanotransduction, the conversion of contractile forces into cellular signals, plays a crucial role in regulating these processes.

Beyond our foundational research on heart muscle growth, our endeavors extend to investigating the molecular mechanisms underlying hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and other cardiovascular diseases. Our drug discovery projects hold the promise of directly aiding patients experiencing heart attacks, while our exploration of extracellular vesicles uncovers new dimensions of cellular communication and potential therapies.

As mentors, we prioritize nurturing a collaborative and supportive environment for our trainees. High school students, undergraduates, and graduate students are guided by two mentors—Dylan and a senior trainee—to ensure continuous support and mentorship. We encourage our trainees to think beyond traditional boundaries, exploring new technologies and incorporating them into their projects to expand the scope of their research. In addition, collaboration is integral to our multidisciplinary approach. We collaborate with other research groups and institutions, combining expertise and resources to push the boundaries of scientific exploration. Our lab’s expertise in high-resolution microscopy attracts researchers seeking assistance, leading to exciting opportunities for cross-disciplinary interactions.

Our lab’s uniqueness lies in our broad focus on studying diverse biological phenomena. From embryonic development to cancer metastasis to the role of extracellular vesicles, our research investigates the impact of cellular contractile systems on various processes. By studying the heart in developing zebrafish embryos, we gain real-time insights into cellular mechanisms in vivo.

Ultimately, our goal is to empower the next generation of scientists to embrace curiosity and find joy in the pursuit of the unknown. We believe that the questions that lie beyond our current understanding are the most intriguing, and by exploring them, we contribute to the advancement of scientific knowledge and impact the field of cell biology and cardiovascular research. The beauty of exploring the unknown is that it requires us to embrace the possibility of being wrong. In our lab, we foster a culture of Finding Joy in Being Wrong. Each experiment, whether confirming or refuting our hypotheses, leads us closer to unveiling new knowledge. We celebrate the moments when we must revise our questions, for they often reveal even more intriguing avenues of inquiry. Join us on this exhilarating scientific journey, where every moment of discovery becomes a step towards unlocking new frontiers in biology. Together, we can Find Joy in Being Wrong and witness the birth of new knowledge that will shape the future of human health.