Research Summary: The goal of his laboratory is to uncover the molecular and cellular mechanisms underpinning animal regeneration. To address this long-standing problem of biology, they have chosen the planarian Schmidtea mediterranea as a model system. Planarians are renowned for their regenerative capacity, which is driven by an intriguing population of collectively totipotent stem cells.
Research Summary: They have successfully established primary 3D organoid cultures of diverse tissues and used them to achieve the first in vitro conversion of primary intestine, stomach and pancreas tissue to adenocarcinoma. These organoid systems comprise an robust in vitro system which they are exploiting for the functional validation of putative oncogenic loci which are identified in whole-genome cancer surveys such as TCGA. They collaborate extensively with systems biologists to interrogate large-scale cancer genomics datasets in organoids. They are also applying organoid models to cancer drug discovery.
Research Summary: Broadly, she is interested in sensory and motor systems and their role in the evolution of adaptive behavior, particularly traits that mediate interactions between animals. Her ultimate goal is to understand how animals adapt to their environment. Her research program is integrative and focuses on understanding the biochemical, molecular, genetic and physiological bases of adaptive behavior.
Research Summary: An important practical goal of synthetic genomics is to develop generic platforms for biotechnology as well as solutions to societal problems such as the looming energy crisis and bioremediation. They are using the yeast S. cerevisiae as the basis for a synthetic genome. This organism has 16 linear chromosomes and a relatively compact (~14Mb total; ~12 Mb nonredundant) and well-understood genome. The synthetic yeast genome can be used to answer a wide variety of profound questions about fundamental properties of chromosomes, genome organization, gene content, function of RNA splicing, the extent to which small RNAs play a role in yeast biology, the distinction between prokaryotes and eukaryotes, and questions relating to genome structure and evolution.
Research Summary: His research group uses the Western honey bee, Apis mellifera, to understand the evolution and mechanisms of social behavior. Among the species of animals most attuned to their social environment are the social insects, which include the honey bee. They live in societies that rival our own in complexity and internal cohesion. Their goal is to explain the function and evolution of behavioral mechanisms that integrate the activity of individuals in a society, neural and neuroendocrine mechanisms that regulate behavior within the brain of the individual, and the genes that influence social behavior.
Research Summary: Aging is one of the biggest mysteries of biology. "Why we age?" is a basic biological question, and at the same time it is highly medically relevant. Aging is associated in accumulation of mutations and genomic instability. They study age-related changes in repair of DNA double-strand breaks using human cells and transgenic mice. They are also using comparative approach to study aging by analyzing short- and long-lived animal species. Finally, as aging is associated with increased cancer incidence, they study DNA repair in breast cancer cells, and anti-cancer mechanisms in short- and long-lived rodents.
Research Summary: Human noroviruses cause a majority of gastroenteritis outbreaks across the globe and are the leading cause of severe childhood diarrhea and foodborne disease outbreaks in the United States. Her laboratory has recently revealed that B cells are targeted by both murine and human noroviruses, and have found that human noroviruses replicate in B cells in vitro. This represents the only cell culture system for a human norovirus. During these studies, they also made the fascinating discovery that norovirus infection is enhanced by commensal bacteria both in cells and in vivo during natural infections. As they now work to optimize this in vitro infection system, they hope that it will represent a major breakthrough for the norovirus field.