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Rhea Rastogi

Loveless Academic Magnet Program High School
Montgomery, AL

Understanding How the Maternal Epigenetic Reprogramming Function of LSD1 Contributes to Inherited Developmental Disease

Rhea Rastogi explored histone methylation, a process that turns genes on and off, and its role in determining cell fate. She found that errors in the histone regulation in the mother’s oocytes can lead to irregular gene expression patterns in offspring that give rise to behavioral defects. Her findings could provide insight into the epigenetic pathways of human patients suffering from Kabuki-like Syndrome.

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Rhea Rastogi, 18, of Montgomery, explored whether errors in a type of genetic change known as histone methylation affected future generations for her Regeneron Science Talent Search cellular and molecular biology project. In our cells, DNA is wrapped around proteins called histones; methylation of histones is a mechanism that turns genes on and off. Rhea used the worm model C. elegans and focused on two enzymes, SPR-5 and MET-2, that are controlled by methylation and affect proper gene expression in newly fertilized eggs.

Wanting to see if errors in this process affected future generations, Rhea found that offspring of worms missing either enzyme had developmental delays and decreased fertility, effects that accumulated in later generations. With both enzymes missing, offspring had similar problems and severe difficulty detecting food. She found similar results in mammalian models, and believes future research may be applied to human
conditions, such as Kabuki-like Syndrome.

2024 Science Talent Search finalist Rhea Rastogi

Rhea founded and captains the Speech and Debate team at Loveless Academic Magnet Program High School and competes in the Science Olympiad. Her parents are Nitin and Deepali Rastogi.

2024 Science Talent Search finalist Rhea Rastogi

Beyond the Project

Rhea is a mentor for W.in Debate, a national nonprofit program that provides free online training for gender minorities in debate, a male-dominated field. She works one-on-one with six individuals from around the country.

FUN FACTS: In her speech and debate career, Rhea has come to believe in the transformative power of a “good pantsuit” and a solid argument.

Illustration of 2024 STS finalist Rhea Rastogi by Amy Wike