UTHSCSA Faculty Profiles v1.0

Lehman, Donna M

School of Medicine
(210) 567-6714

Associate Professor with tenure in the Departments of Medicine/Cardiology and Cellular & Structural Biology with a cross appointment in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics. My formal training and research is in human genetics. A major focus of my lab is to identify genes that are involved in the pathogenesis of metabolic traits and disorders among the Mexican American population using large cohort studies. Our goal is to isolate the causal DNA changes influencing disease and explore their functional effects in the etiology of disease. I have served as the PI of the landmark San Antonio Family Diabetes Study since 2008. This cohort consists of large pedigrees of subjects of Mexican American descent, and has led to a rich resource of longitudinal clinical data both pre- and post-diabetic stage as well as genomic data and in vitro derived phenotypes for studies of metabolic disorders. As a bench scientist with extensive training in computational biology, I have led the genomics analyses phase of this and other projects. My lab has developed and shared computational methods and their results. One example is the investigation of the extent and effect of genome-wide copy number variants on gene expression and disease, where we have identified hundreds of novel CNVs that may be ethnic specific.
I have also served as PI on 3 other large federally funded genetics projects including the T2D GENES Consortium and its follow-up the AMP T2D Consortium which are NIH-funded studies conducting massive whole-genome and exome resequencing efforts in multi-ethnic cohorts with the goal of identifying and confirming T2D genetic risk factors, and assessing their function. In order to bridge the gap between variant identification and biological function, my own lab has developed in vitro models of human hypothalamic and adipocyte function through the application of induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cell technology. The application of iPS cell technology to derive clinically relevant cellular models for human samples with genomic profiles associated with disease can provide an in vitro system to assess how naturally occurring human genetic variation influences the biological networks that converge on disease. As the hypothalamus is a critical brain hub that regulates glucose homeostasis and energy metabolism, but is inaccessible in humans, we have mastered methods to generate these neurons from humans for study and are applying this unique model to study the genomes of subjects from our Mexican American cohorts to map the temporal epigenetic regulatory landscape of these critical cell types and elucidate the function of obesity susceptibility variants. My research program also includes studies on prevention of prostate cancer and its progression among diabetic men. Although the incidence of prostate cancer appears lower for men with diabetes, the severity may be higher. We are examining the mechanisms of effects of diabetic and lipid lowering medications on this risk.

9/2008 - Present Associate Professor UT Health Science Center San Antonio, Medicine, San Antonio, TX