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The Desmin Kitchen

The CRCIF is a people-centric laboratory composed of highly skilled and passionate researchers with international exposure. 

We demonstrate high levels of professionalism and ethical standards in state in the art facilities. 

Giulio Agnetti

Giulio Agnetti, PhD, FAHA

Principal Investigator

In 2016, Giulio founded the Center for Research on Cardiac Intermediate Filaments  (CRCIF) within the division of Cardiology at Johns Hopkins. The CRCIF was created to foster collaboration projects aimed at elucidating the pathophysiological role of this understudied component of the cytoskeleton in cardiovascular disease.

Desmin is the main protein component of the cardiac intermediate filaments. The accumulation of cleaved desmin, as well as its misfolding, are hallmarks of cardiac dysfunction in numerous experimental models of heart disease as well as clinical specimens. The loss of cell ultrastructure arising from desmin cleavage in the highly organized cardiac cell was proposed as a straightforward cause of contractile dysfunction. In addition, protein misfolding is emerging as a major contributor to the development of cardiovascular disease. We use a combination of cell and molecular biology, advanced biochemistry, experimental models of cardiovascular disease, and human samples to study how desmin’s loss and gain of (toxic) function can be therapeutically targeted to preserve the function of the heart.

Our goal is to use basic science to understand and prevent the development of cardiac dysfunction. We use models of heart disease as a “material lab” to understand the biological function of intermediate filaments

Joseph Oldam

Joseph Oldam, BS

Research Associate 

Joseph is a Post-Baccalaureate who recently received his B.S. in Neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University. He started working in the Center for Research on Cardiac Intermediate Filaments (CRCIF) with Dr. Giulio Agnetti in November of 2019 during his first semester at Hopkins.

He is working on a variety of different projects in the lab including research on: the impaired proteostasis observed from anthracycline-induced (specifically doxorubicin) cardiotoxicity in pediatric patients with Jessica Semel and how desmin is involved in the cardiac cytoskeleton as well as how its dysregulation is involved in cardiovascular disease with the Leducq Foundation. He is also leading a technical development project focused on developing new methods to analyze proteins.

Throughout these research projects, he has become acquainted with a wide variety of experimental protocols including but not limited to western blots, filter assays, protein quantitation, tissue homogenization, and cell culture/protein extraction. Joseph is also very passionate about going into the medical field, specifically in the field of pediatric neurosurgery. In his free time, he plays the bass, bartends, and hangs out with friends!


Jessica Semel, BS

Research Assistant

Jessica is a Master’s Student in the field of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University. 

She started working in the Center for Research on Cardiac Intermediate Filaments (CRCIF) with Dr. Agnetti lab in the Fall of 2021 after graduating from Stony Brook University with a Bachelor's in Biology with a minor in Marine Science.

She will be researching the impaired proteostasis seen in anthracycline chemotherapy-induced cardiotoxicity, specifically in pediatric patients with Joseph Oldam. Our goal is to research novel therapeutic strategies to target this impairment of proteostasis to curb cardiotoxicity by using a combination of biochemical and molecular biology techniques.


Zixiao Li, BS

Research Assistant

Zixiao (Christina) Li is a master’s student in the field of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University. She started working in the Center for Research on Cardiac Intermediate Filaments (CRCIF) with Dr. Agnetti lab in January of 2022 after graduating from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with Bachelor's in Molecular and Cellular Biology and Mathematics. She will be researching the role of desmin aggregation in cardiovascular diseases, especially in ischemia-reperfusion injury. To investigate the mechanism of desmin aggregation under oxidative stress she uses various lab techniques such as Phos-tag Gel, Western Blot, and Protein Quantification.

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Irene Bissoli, BS, MS

Visiting PhD-student

Irene is an Italian PhD candidate from the University of Bologna - Alma mater, at the Department of Biomedical and Neuromotor Sciences in Bologna, Italy. She studies the biochemical aspects of signal transduction, autophagy, growth, differentiation, endoplasmic reticulum stress and apoptosis in relation to pathological conditions including osteoarthritis (OA) and cardiovascular diseases. She also investigates the role of nutrients and bioactive compounds from food in the prevention of these diseases. Now at Johns Hopkins, Irene works to to create new Desmin mutant cell models with human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs).

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Xiaomei Yang, MD, PhD

Post-Doctoral Research Fellow

Xiaomei (Rose) Yang is a PhD in the field of cardiac remodeling and Anesthesiology (2019), and was a Research scholar of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine (2017-2019). She started working in the Center for Research on Cardiac Intermediate Filaments(CRCIF) with Dr. Agnetti lab in the Summer of 2022 as a postdoc research fellow. 

She has won the International Society for Heart Research travel award prize twice for her research in the underlying mechanism of right ventricular remodeling and dysfunction. She will be researching in the field of protein phosphorylation during cardiac remodeling and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

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Christopher Pantelis

Undergraduate Volunteer

Chris is a rising senior majoring in molecular and cellular biology on the pre-med track. He started to volunteer at the lab during the Spring 2022 semester where he assisted other lab members such as Zixiao and Jess on their projects. Chris is also working closely with the Halperin lab to finish an upcoming project of theirs. 

Outside of the lab, Chris is also a wide receiver for the Johns Hopkins Football team.

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Alize Gourrege

Remote Contributor


Alizé Gourrege is a medical student at University College Dublin in Ireland and holds an undergraduate degree in Applied Medical Sciences from Swansea University Medical School. Alizé rows for her University team during her spare time. 

Maya Sharma

Remote Contributor

Maya is a fourth-year BScH student studying Biomedical Sciences from Ontario, Canada. She is working on presenting data and using bioinformatics tools such as the statistical software R.


Valeria Macri

Undergraduate Volunteer

Valeria is a freshman majoring in molecular and cellular biology on the pre-med track. She started volunteering in the Fall 2022 semester. Previously, she aided in data analysis of neutrophils in different gradients at the Gomer Lab at Texas A&M University. Additionally, she enjoys painting, playing tennis, and watching movies!

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Shamailah Haque

Remote Contributor

Shamailah is an undergraduate student in The College of New Jersey's 7-Year BS/MD Program with Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. 

Past Lab Members

(last 4 years)
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Stephen Carroll, MS

Former Research Assistant 

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Patrick Calhoun, PhD

Former Post-Doctoral Fellow

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Krishna Kumar Singh, PhD

Former Post-Doctoral Fellow


Krishna Patel, BS

Former Research Assistant 


Pratima Rayavarapu, MS

Former Research Assistant

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Hikmet Kadioglu, MD

Former Research Assistant


Silvia Costantini, MD

Former Research Assistant 

Agnetti's Lab Cats (and other)



Giulio's Cat

A very sweet but sometimes sassy kitty!



Zixiao's Cat

The most chill cat you'd ever meet!



Joseph's Cat

A cat that's as friendly as a dog!



Maya's Cat

A cuddly cat with a huge personality!



Zixiao's Cat

A perky and energetic little feline!



Joseph's Dog

Not a cat, but acts like one!

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Silky Chicken

Xiaomei's Rooster

A personal alarm clock!

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