Faculty Spotlight - Dr. Tsou

Faculty Spotlight - Eliza Tsou, PhD

Dr. Eliza PS Tsou, PhD, Edward T. and Ellen K. Dryer Early Career Professor of Rheumatology and Research, is a Research Assistant Professor in the Division of Rheumatology where she conducts translational research in the field of systemic sclerosis (scleroderma). Dr. Tsou’s interests and experience in scientific research are cross-disciplinary within Pharmacology and Rheumatology. She has established herself as an integral member of the University of Michigan Scleroderma Program in the Division of Rheumatology, with a specific focus on epigenetic regulations in scleroderma pathogenesis.

Pharmacist by training, Dr. Tsou obtained her PhD in Pharmaceutical Sciences from University at Buffalo - The State University of New York, and completed her post-doctoral training in the Division of Rheumatology at Michigan Medicine.

Specializing in epigenetics research, Dr. Tsou looks specifically at the involvement of epigenetics in systemic sclerosis. “My research is related to understanding how epigenetic changes cause systemic sclerosis, with an emphasis on the vasculature,” said Tsou.

Systemic sclerosis is a complicated disease that involves immune activation, vascular dysfunction, and tissue fibrosis. Her goal is to utilize epigenetic techniques to better understand disease pathogenesis and patient heterogeneity, and to identify epigenetic biomarkers and novel therapeutic targets for this disease.

Dr. Tsou's work is focused solely on research. “What makes our research unique is that we are able to isolate endothelial cells from patient skin biopsies – not an easy task because of the avascular nature of the disease,” Tsou states. “We are interested in understanding the reason behind the vascular defects in these patients, knowing that blood vessel complication is one of the hallmarks that happens in the early phase of the disease.”

Dr. Tsou concentrates her work on histone changes, one type of epigenetic mechanism in scleroderma. “We found that histone proteins affecting histone acetylation or methylation are dysregulated, not only in endothelial cells, but also in fibroblasts from scleroderma patients. Using state-of-the-art epigenetic technologies, we were able to identify several target genes that play functional roles in angiogenesis and fibrosis,” Tsou said. “We are hoping to generate sufficient evidence for repurposing epigenetic-modifying drugs to be used in the treatment of scleroderma, which would potentially lower overall costs and shorten development timelines.”

She is thankful for her parents, particularly her father, who inspired her to pursue a career in science. She is also grateful for the many mentors along the way who helped her believe she could achieve her goals.

Dr. Tsou has three young children so her spare time is limited. However, when she does have the opportunity, she enjoys exploring the world with her family. She also enjoys gardening and reading. Her favorite drink is bubble tea and she loves eating good food with her husband, Yi-Chen.