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The Stivers Lab is broadly interested in the biology of the RNA base uracil when it is present in DNA. Our work involves structural and biophysical studies of uracil recognition by DNA repair enzymes, the central role of uracil in adapative and innate immunity, and the function of uracil in antifolate and fluoropyrimidine chemotherapy. We use a wide breadth of structural, chemical, genetic and biophysical approaches that provide a fundamental understanding of molecular function. Our long-range goal is to use this understanding to design novel small molecules that alter biological pathways within a cellular environment. One approach we are developing is the high-throughput synthesis and screening of small molecule libraries directed at important targets in cancer and HIV-1 pathogenesis.
The Arking Lab
The Arking Lab studies the genomics of complex human disease, with the primary goal of identifying and characterizing genetics variants that modify risk for human disease. The group has pioneered the use of genome-wide association studies (GWAS), which allow for an unbiased screen of virtually all common genetic variants in the genome. The lab is currently developing improved GWAS methodology, as well as exploring the integration of additional genome level data (RNA expression, DNA methylation, protein expression) to improve the power to identify specific genetic influences of disease.
The Arking Lab is actively involved in researching:
• autism, a childhood neuropsychiatric disorder
• cardiovascular genomics, with a focus on electrophysiology and sudden cardiac death (SCD)
• electrophysiology is the study of the flow of ions in biological tissues
Dan E. Arking, PhD, is an associate professor at the McKusick-Nathans Institute of Genetic Medicine and Department of Medicine, D...ivision of Cardiology, Johns Hopkins University. view more
Our research laboratory studies the roles mobile DNAs play in human disease. Our group was one of the first to develop a targeted method for amplifying mobile DNA insertion sites in the human genome, and we showed that these are a significant source of structural variation (Huang et al., 2010). Since that time, our group has continued to develop high throughput tools to characterize these understudied sequences in genomes and to describe the expression and genetic stability of interspersed repeats in normal and malignant tissues. We have developed a monoclonal antibody to one of the proteins encoded for by Long INterspersed Element-1 (LINE-1) and showed its aberrant expression in a wide breadth of human cancers (Rodi? et al., 2014). We have demonstrated acquired LINE-1 insertion events during the evolution of metastatic pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma and other gastrointestinal tract tumors (Rodi? et al., 2015). We have major projects focused on studying functional consequences of inh...erited sequence variants, and exciting evidence that these predispose to cancer risk and other disease phenotypes. Our laboratory is using a combination of genome wide association study (GWAS) analyses, custom RNA-seq analyses, semi-high throughput gene expression reporter assays, and murine models to pursue this hypothesis. view more
We are devoted to developing and deploying cutting edge technologies that can be used to define human immune responses. Much of our work leverages ‘next generation’ DNA sequencing, which enables massively parallel molecular measurements. Examples of our technologies include:
- bacteriophage display of synthetic peptidome libraries for comprehensive, quantitative profiling of antibodies;
- display of ORFeome libraries for antigen discovery, protein-protein interaction studies, and drug target identification;
- ultrasensitive, multiplex RNA quantification techniques to monitor gene expression and detect microbes;
- pooled genetic screening to elucidate immune cell function and identify new therapeutic targets.
The Larman Laboratory uses these and other approaches to identify opportunities for monitoring and manipulating immune responses.
Research in the Vestibular NeuroEngineering Lab (VNEL) focuses on restoring inner ear function through “bionic” electrical stimulation, inner ear gene therapy, and enhancing the central nervous system’s ability to learn ways to use sensory input from a damaged inner ear. VNEL research involves basic and applied neurophysiology, biomedical engineering, clinical investigation and population-based epidemiologic studies. We employ techniques including single-unit electrophysiologic recording; histologic examination; 3-D video-oculography and magnetic scleral search coil measurements of eye movements; microCT; micro MRI; and finite element analysis. Our research subjects include computer models, circuits, animals and humans. For more information about VNEL, click here.
VNEL is currently recruiting subjects for two first-in-human clinical trials:
1) The MVI Multichannel Vestibular Implant Trial involves implantation of a “bionic” inner ear stimulator intended to partially restore sensation... of head movement. Without that sensation, the brain’s image- and posture-stabilizing reflexes fail, so affected individuals suffer difficulty with blurry vision, unsteady walking, chronic dizziness, mental fogginess and a high risk of falling. Based on designs developed and tested successfully in animals over the past the past 15 years at VNEL, the system used in this trial is very similar to a cochlear implant (in fact, future versions could include cochlear electrodes for use in patients who also have hearing loss). Instead of a microphone and cochlear electrodes, it uses gyroscopes to sense head movement, and its electrodes are implanted in the vestibular labyrinth. For more information on the MVI trial, click here.
2) The CGF166 Inner Ear Gene Therapy Trial involves inner ear injection of a genetically engineered DNA sequence intended to restore hearing and balance sensation by creating new sensory cells (called “hair cells”). Performed at VNEL with the support of Novartis and through a collaboration with the University of Kansas and Columbia University, this is the world’s first trial of inner ear gene therapy in human subjects. Individuals with severe or profound hearing loss in both ears are invited to participate. For more information on the CGF166 trial, click here. view less
The lab currently focuses on identifying genetic alterations in cancer affecting sensitivity and resistance to targeted therapies, and connecting such changes to key clinical characteristics and novel therapeutic approaches. We have recently developed methods that allow noninvasive characterization of cancer, including the PARE method that provided the first whole genome analysis of tumor DNA in the circulation of cancer patients. These analyses provide a window into real-time genomic analyses of cancer patients and provide new avenues for personalized diagnostic and therapeutic intervention.
The Wheelan Lab focuses on DNA sequence analysis. Her team creates new techniques to mathematically analyze and biologically interpret high-throughput sequencing data and other high-dimensional biological datasets. The team examines spatial relationships across genomes and uses transposons to query genomic sequence/structure relationships.
Normal and neoplastic cells respond to genome integrity threats in a variety of different ways. Furthermore, the nature of these responses are critical both for cancer pathogenesis and for cancer treatment. DNA damaging agents activate several signal transduction pathways in damaged cells which trigger cell fate decisions such as proliferation, genomic repair, differentiation, and cell death. For normal cells, failure of a DNA damaging agent (i.e., a carcinogen) to activate processes culminating in DNA repair or in cell death might promote neoplastic transformation. For cancer cells, failure of a DNA damaging agent (i.e., an antineoplastic drug) to promote differentiation or cell death might undermine cancer treatment.
Our laboratory has discovered the most common known somatic genome alteration in human prostatic carcinoma cells. The DNA lesion, hypermethylation of deoxycytidine nucleotides in the promoter of a carcinogen-defense enzyme gene, appears to result in inactivation of th...e gene and a resultant increased vulnerability of prostatic cells to carcinogens.
Studies underway in the laboratory have been directed at characterizing the genomic abnormality further, and at developing methods to restore expression of epigenetically silenced genes and/or to augment expression of other carcinogen-defense enzymes in prostate cells as prostate cancer prevention strategies.
Another major interest pursued in the laboratory is the role of chronic or recurrent inflammation as a cause of prostate cancer. Genetic studies of familial prostate cancer have identified defects in genes regulating host inflammatory responses to infections.
A newly described prostate lesion, proliferative inflammatory atrophy (PIA), appears to be an early prostate cancer precursor. Current experimental approaches feature induction of chronic prostate inflammation in laboratory mice and rats, and monitoring the consequences on the development of PIA and prostate cancer. view more