Diana Davidek, MD, a medical school graduate from Universidad Surcolombiana in Colombia is a postdoctoral fellow at the Aging Institute under the mentorship of Aditi Gurkar, PhD. Dr. Davidek is currently supported by the T32 training program in the Division of Geriatrics, Department of Medicine. In the Gurkar lab, Dr. Davidek is studying how DNA damage promotes cellular senescence in cardiac disease and aging. Cellular senescence is defined as a mitotic arrest, where cells resist apoptosis (death) and release deleterious molecules that are harmful to neighboring cells. In popular culture these are often referred to as ‘zombie’ cells.
The role of senescence in a post-mitotic tissue such as the heart has been largely ignored until recently. Dr. Davidek is working with human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSc) differentiated into cardiomyocytes. This project is in collaboration with Dr. Tzahi Cohen-Karni, an associate professor in the Department of Material Science and Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University. With Dr. Cohen-Karni’s expertise, Dr. Davidek hopes to re-create a 3D cardiac unit and understand human cardiac aging.
Dr. Davidek has devoted her postdoctoral training to the field of aging research. She held her first postdoctoral position in the Department of Medicine, Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care Medicine (PACCM) at the University of Pittsburgh where she worked on describing the senescent phenotype of fibroblasts in Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF), an irreversible and progressive age-related disease that is characterized by lung scarring and a decrease in lung function. She later moved to the Aging Institute under the tutelage of Ana Mora, MD, to study how fatty acid oxidation (FAO) declines with age and how the decrease of FAO in alveolar epithelial cells type II (AECII) contributes to DNA damage and susceptibility to lung fibrosis.
Dr. Davidek is a physician at heart and has always loved primary care. Her dream is to combine her passion for research and medicine to improve quality of care. She is applying to medical residency soon and hopes to continue advancing her career while she raises her family. Outside of the lab, Dr. Davidek loves to spend time with her husband, their two children, and their mischievous golden retriever. They love to go biking, hiking, and camping or to simply enjoy a meal at home while playing board games.