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The main focus of the Becker lab has been on the mechanisms and consequences of post-ischemic myocardial inflammation.
Genomic control of platelet function:
Aggregation of blood platelets initiates clotting in coronary arteries, the main cause of heart attacks. Our laboratory conducts experiments to understand how genes control platelet function. Through funding by the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, we have performed candidate gene analysis, linkage studies, whole genome association studies, and now whole genome sequencing in about 2000 healthy subjects from families with early onset coronary artery disease. The subjects are siblings or offspring of an individual identified with coronary artery disease before age 60 in the GeneSTAR Research Program (Genetic Studies of Atherosclerosis Risk). We have identified a large number of common and rare genetic variants associated with platelet aggregation, and although some variants are located in genes known to be important in... the biology of platelet function, most are in non-protein coding regions of genes (introns) or in intergenic regions of the genome. To understand better how these variants influence platelet function, we created pluripotent stem cells from blood mononuclear cells in 257 genotyped GeneSTAR subjects and then transformed the stem cells to megakaryocytes, the source of platelets in the bone marrow. We have determined the entire transcriptome of these megakaryocytes to measure gene expression levels in an effort to functionally link genetic variation with platelet function. We are also interested in epigenetic effects which regulate the amount of gene transcription and resulting protein formation. We have done similar transcriptomic and proteomic studies in blood platelets as we have in stem cell-derived megakaryocytes.
Our goal is to identify new therapeutic targets for drug development to control excessive platelet aggregation and reduce the risk of heart attack in susceptible individuals. We also hope to use the genetic information to predict who is at greatest risk for platelet aggregation or bleeding, and tailor treatment to effectively apply individualized precision medicine.
The Becker laboratory also extends its cardiovascular work well beyond platelet function, as noted on the GeneSTAR Research Program website. view less
Frederick Anokye-Danso Lab
The Frederick Anokye-Danso Lab investigates the biological pathways at work in the separation of human pluripotent stem cells into adipocytes and pancreatic beta cells. We focus in particular on determinant factors of obesity and metabolic dysfunction, such as the P72R polymorphism of p53. We also conduct research on the reprogramming of somatic cells into pluripotent stem cells using miRNAs.
Gabsang Lee Lab
Human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) provide unprecedented opportunities for cell replacement approaches, disease modeling and drug discovery in a patient-specific manner. The Gabsang Lee Lab focuses on the neural crest lineage and skeletal muscle tissue, in terms of their fate-determination processes as well as relevant genetic disorders.
Previously, we studied a human genetic disorder (familial dysautonomia, or FD) with hiPSCs and found that FD-specific neural crest cells have low levels of genes needed to make autonomous neurons--the ones needed for the "fight-or-flight" response. In an effort to discover novel drugs, we performed high-throughput screening with a compound library using FD patient-derived neural crest cells.
We recently established a direct conversion methodology, turning patient fibroblasts into "induced neural crest (iNC)" that also exhibit disease-related phenotypes, just as the FD-hiPSC-derived neural crest. We're extending our research to the ne...ural crest's neighboring cells, somite. Using multiple genetic reporter systems, we identified sufficient cues for directing hiPSCs into somite stage, followed by skeletal muscle lineages. This novel approach can straightforwardly apply to muscular dystrophies, resulting in expandable myoblasts in a patient-specific manner.
Founded in the late 1980s, our Lab has been exploring the fundamental mechanisms of neural responses to traumatic and degenerative signals as well as mechanisms of neural repair. Our current interests include: traumatic brain injury and models; mechanisms and treatments of traumatic axonopathies; molecular neuropathology of traumatic brain injury; induced pluripotent stem cells as models of disease.
Zack Wang Lab
The Wang lab focuses on the signals that direct the differentiation of pluripotent stem cells, such as induced-pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, into hematopoietic and cardiovascular cells. Pluripotent stem cells hold great potential for regenerative medicine. Defining the molecular links between differentiation outcomes will provide important information for designing rational methods of stem cell manipulation.
The Zambidis Labratory studies the formation of pluripotent stem cells and the subsequent hematopoietic, endothelial and cardiac differentiation, as well as the potential therapeutic uses of pluripotent stem cell-derived cells.