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I have worked in endometriosis research for over ten years, studying the molecular and genetic mechanisms associated with this disease. I currently direct the Endometriosis Research Program (ERP) at PSM (R01-HD050559, NICHD, 2006-2011). The ERP is composed of a research laboratory infrastructure and a unique biorepository of tissues, serum and nucleic acids, as well as demographic and clinical obtained from patients with endometriosis and controls, in addition to a collaborative network of supporting specialists (Pathologists, Reproductive Endocrinologists and Gynecologists) in Puerto Rico. Research at ERP has helped establish the prevalence of endometriosis in PR at 5%, identify potential diagnostic markers and discover a genetic region in chromosome 10 associated with disease. We have recently identified SNPs associated to endometriosis and/or infertility in our population. The ERP has also conducted studies on the impact of endometriosis on life, health and work productivity, and is currently studying the economic impact that this condition has on the health system. Currently I am co-investigator in the U54 PSM/MCC Cancer Center Partnership and part of the Administrative Core of the U54 Puerto Rico Biobank, which collects biospecimens from Puerto Rican cancer patients and controls to support translational research in this population. Under my direct supervision 5 students have received a PhD degree in Biomedical Sciences (who have gone on to conduct post-doctoral fellowships; work in industry and academia), one post-doctoral fellow (now junior faculty), 4 MPH students, 4 PsyD students. I currently mentor 2 PhD students, 2 undergraduate students, and 3 junior faculty. For the past 20 years I have mentored dozens of students at all levels (High School, Undergraduate, Medical). Also, I have helped organize the first endometriosis patient support group in Puerto Rico and I am founding member of the Fundación Puertorriqueña de Pacientes con Endometriosis (FPPE), Inc, a non-profit foundation devoted to providing information and support for patients suffering from this disease and their relatives. The FPPE has developed a series of educational seminars and workshops for patients as well as social media and a dedicated web site with information about the disease in Spanish, and is a strong advocate for the public awareness of endometriosis as an important women health issue in the island and worldwide.
Ongoing collaborations and projects of the ERP include studies on: i) the role of stress in the development/exacerbation of endometriosis symptoms and inflammatory parameters in a rat model of disease (Dr. C. Appleyard, PSM), ii) the role of histone modifications in endometriosis (Dr. E. Seto, Moffitt), iii) discovery of the proteome and potential diagnostic markers of endometriosis (Drs. H. Taylor, Yale, I. Pino CDI Labs), iv) molecular studies on the role of candidate genes (Lysyl oxidases, CXCR4, HDACs) involved in proliferation and invasion of endometriotic cells (funded through F31 fellowships), and v) development of a primate model of endometriosis at the Caribbean Primate Center (Dr. L. Ruiz, UPR) to study the early events in the development of this disease and the associated infertility.
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