Heart failure epigenomics and molecular epigenetics

The human genome is organised into a tight nuclear space where genes and their functional elements interact to control gene expression. “Genome organisation” in space and time is also referred to as the epigenome. Strong emerging evidence suggest that the epigenome holds clues for important novel medical therapy. As part of fully annotating the epigenome of the heart, it is important to map all heart-relevant genes, their functional elements and to determine all relationships between them.

The mission in the Foo-lab, which moved from Cambridge UK and started in Singapore in 2013, is to understand “genome organisation” in heart cells. We are interested in how heart cells undergo “epigenomic remodelling” during the transition to heart disease: how this might lead to altered stress-gene responses, and how it contributes to heart failure disease progression. By exploring this area of research, we are particularly looking to discover novel mechanisms of disease that may offer new therapeutic options or new heart disease biomarkers. Our projects involve making use of the latest genomic technologies, human explanted tissue and animal disease models. We are always on a look-out to work with people who have the same interest in this area of research.

In Singapore, 15 people die from cardiovascular disease everyday*. Cardiovascular disease accounts for nearly 30% of all deaths in 2013. Heart failure is the final common pathway for many cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack, high blood pressure and diabetes. As a chronic debilitating condition, heart failure therefore represents a very large healthcare burden globally. Currently, heart failure is indeed the most common cardiac cause for hospital admissions, accounting for 25% of such hospital stays in Singapore. Moreover the mortality rate of heart failure is very high at over 50% in 5 years. New and improved ways to manage and treat heart failure patients are therefore urgently needed.

*stats from Singapore Heart Foundation.

Our lab has also been instrumental in putting together a clinical genomics programme starting with high-throughput genetic tests for patients with Inherited Cardiac Conditions (ICC). This has led to an ICC clinic which is run at the National University Heart Centre [link]. We are also working to apply Clinical Genomics as diagnostics in the Clinical Genetics Departments at NUHkids (with A/Prof Denise Goh) and KK Women's and Children's Hospital (with Drs Angeline Lai and Saumya Jamuar).

Foo-lab @ Cardiovascular Research Institute

Foo-lab @ Genome Institute of Singapore

Projects and Core Capabilities


The Foo-lab hosted 17 visiting professors and senior scientists to an International CV Epigenetics meeting in Singapore. This is in hope of making it an annual gathering for all of us who work on CV epigenetics research. Visiting Professors included Yibin Wang (UCLA), Joe Hill (UTSouthwestern), Sap Haldar (Gladstone Institute), Michael Potente (Max Planck Institute for Heart Lung Research), Gianluigi Condorelli (Humanitas University), Johannes Backs (University Hospital Heidelberg), Lutz Hein (University of Freiburg), Tim McKinsey (UC Denver), Sam El-Osta (Monash University), Len Pennacchio (Joint Genome Institute) and Christoph Mack (University of Saarland). The meeting was a 2-day filled series of talks and posters, culminating in an evening in the highest rooftop bar and restaurant in town (282m above ground), sponsored by Illumina.

Congratulations to Benson and Albert for winning the young investigator awards at the Singapore Cardiac Society conference, 2017.

Congratulations to Makis for birth of Aris.

Accompanying Editorial for Malin's paper 2017

Accompanying Editorial for Matt's paper 2017

Accompanying Editorial for Wilson's paper 2017

Liver cancer news release March 2017

Most Read Circ Res 2016-7

December 2016:
Our paper accepted in Cardiovasc Res. Congratulations to Wilson, Benson and all others who contributed.

November 2016:
Our paper accepted in JACC Bas Transl Sci. Congratulations to Malin, Robin and all on the paper.

10-11 Oct 2016:

Roger attended International Council for Science: Epigenetics workgroup meeting in KL. See news

29-30 Sep 2016:

For the NUHS Centre for Personalised and Precision Health (CPPH), our lab hosted the first Variant Curation workshop (in collaboration with our friends from the Melbourne Genomic Alliance). The workshop gave an exciting series of hands-on sessions for scientists and clinicians to practice curating Whole Exome sequencing datasets. See programme

8 Aug 2016:
Paper published at Circulation Research
A Simplified, Langendorff-Free Method for Concomitant Isolation of Viable Cardiac Myocytes and Non-Myocytes from the Adult Mouse Heart. Read the paper

20 July 2016:
Paper accepted at JACC: Basic to Translational Science
A Transcriptomic and Epigenomic Comparison of Fetal and Adult Human Cardiac Fibroblasts Reveals Novel Key Transcription Factors in Adult Cardiac Fibroblasts

15 May 2016:

In the Singapore Cardiac Society Annual Scientific Meeting (May 2016),
Wilson won the prize for the Free paper Session. For the Young Investigator Award (YIA) category, Rongrong, Albert and Kelvin bagged the first, second and third prizes respectively.

27 April 2016:
In the upcoming Singapore Cardiac Society Annual Scientific Meeting (May 2016),
Kelvin, Albert and Rongrong have been shortlisted for the Young Investigator Award.
Wilson, Matias, Choon Kiat, Matt, Dom, Cheryl and Ning have been selected for oral poster presentations.

25 January 2016:
Congratulations to Saumya et al for the publication (2016): "Incidentalome from Genomic Sequencing: A Barrier to Personalized Medicine?" EBioMedicine 2016. Read the paper.

4 December 2015:

Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS) 15th Anniversary GALA dinner at Singapore Shangri-La Hotel.

November 2015:

Congratulations, Dominic! Another PhD student from our lab has passed the NUS PhD Qualifying Examination (PQE) with flying colors!

25 October 2015:

Roger was an invited speaker at the 6th Regional Conference on Molecular Medicine (RCMM) in Kuala Lumpur. Details.

1 October 2015:

Congratulations, Oliver Worsley! Our first PhD student to pass the NUS PhD Qualifying Examination (PQE).

18 September 2015:

Whole exome sequencing helps save kids' lives. Read full article.

31 August 2015:

Roger spoke at the AITBiotech 6th NGS Conference 2015. "Back to the future" Detail.

10 July 2015:

Congratulations to Dr Eleanor Wong who was conferred her PhD in NUS last Friday. Well deserved celebrations!

20 May 2015

Wow. Our lab members are doing well. Five interns have been awarded places at medical schools. NUS YLL med schl: Nicole Choi, Sia Tze Yang, Tan Ting Fang, Raphael Soh Qin (with an A*STAR Undergraduate Scholarship). LKC NTU med schl: Wong Chun Jie. Our Research Associate Lim Eng How was awarded his PhD in Molecular Epigenetics (NTU) and is also starting Graduate Medical School at Duke-NUS. Interns Phillina Phua and Lee Li Ting have started their undergraduate studies at Life Science and Biomedical Science departments in NUS and NTU. FYP intern Seow Wei Qiang has also started his A*STAR PhD scholarship in Cambridge. What a wonderful bunch. We wish them the very best and will hope to continue to inspire them towards biomedical science and research.

Recently, Kelvin, Eleanor, Cheryl and Oliver attended Keystone conferences in Colorado, US. Kelvin was selected to present an oral abstract at the conference. Eleanor presented a poster.

Congratulations to Ana for her publication (10 March 2015): "Experimental heart failure modelled by the cardiomyocyte-specific loss of an epigenome modifier, DNMT3B".

Funding Support