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Secrets of the heart: Karissa Sanbonmatsu’s research yields clues for conquering cardiac disease

Learn about a molecule named “Braveheart” at this Oct. 19 talk
October 1, 2020

The first 3-D images have been created of an RNA molecule known as "Braveheart" for its role in transforming stem cells into heart cells.


  • Stacy Baker
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All ages are welcome!

What is the human heart truly made of? Why can it become diseased? With the right tools, could scientists actually grow healthy ones?

Karissa Sanbonmatsu, a team leader in Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Theoretical Biology and Biophysics group, will answer these questions and more in the Science on Tap virtual talk, “Secrets of the heart: imaging the dark matter of the genome,” Monday, Oct. 19, 5:30–7 p.m. Register here.

The lecture series is a joint project between the Lab’s Bradbury Science Museum and the Los Alamos Creative District.

In February 2020, the Sanbonmatsu Team created the first 3-D image of a heart RNA structure using the Laboratory’s supercomputers along with state-of-the-art biomolecular imaging. The molecule they studied is called “Braveheart,” and it triggers the transformation of stem cells into heart cells. Understanding Braveheart more fully could lead to advances in regenerative medicine and eventually the ultimate goal of growing a healthy human heart.

Karissa is a principal investigator funded by the National Institute of Health and the National Science Foundation, the curator of the newest Bradbury Science Museum exhibit “The Ribosome” and a fellow of the American Physical Society. She described her work with epigenetics in a 2018 TED talk titled “The Biology of Gender, from DNA to the Brain,” which has more than 2.4 million views.


Science on Tap is a convivial opportunity to engage with Lab scientists on their current projects. A brief presentation is followed by questions, answers and discussion. The fun takes place on the third Monday of each month from 5:30 to 7 p.m. virtually — and eventually at local watering holes in Los Alamos and White Rock.