AMR Spring Seminar Series: Dr. Heran Darwin

“The aldehyde hypothesis”

Mycobacterium tuberculosis, a human-exclusive pathogen, is arguably the deadliest microbe on the planet. While SARS-CoV-2 killed more people than M. tuberculosis for a year or two, it is estimated M. tuberculosishas killed 1-2 million people yearly for millennia. The long coexistence of this bacterial species with humans has likely resulted in the selection of host and pathogen populations that prevent either’s extinction. We propose that reactive aldehydes produced in metabolic pathways are exploited during certain microbial infections. While there has been a significant focus on the effects of aldehydes on mammalian physiology, the idea that that they might be exploited or purposefully induced to kill pathogens is new. My talk will present evidence that suggests aldehydes are among the arsenal of effectors needed for pathogen control. Furthermore, we will provide evidence that a common human mutation, ALDH2*2, was selected for by bacterial infection


Heran Darwin is a Professor of Microbiology at NYU School of Medicine, where she has been since 2004. Her research contributions include the characterization of a bacterial proteasome system in Mycobacterium tuberculosis. She obtained her Ph.D. from UCLA in the lab of Dr. Virginia Miller. Half-way through her PhD, Heran moved with Dr. Miller to Washington University in St. Louis and finished her degree there, and remained as a postdoctoral fellow with Virginia for 2 more years. Heran then trained as a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Dr. Carl Nathan at Weill Medical College of Cornell University in NYC. Heran is a recipient of an ICAAC Young Investigator Award and a Burroughs Wellcome Fund PATH Award. Heran also serves on the Board of Directors of the Vilcek Foundation, the mission of which is to spotlight the contributions of immigrants in the Arts and Biomedical Sciences.

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