Our lab studies RNA-mediated gene regulation in stem cells, early embryos, neuronal systems and cancer.
One of the main focuses has been on microRNAs (miRNAs). miRNAs are small non-coding RNAs involved in virtually all functional aspects of higher eukaryotes, including embryonic development, cell differentiation and proliferation, cell death, energy metabolism, and antiviral defense. Because tight control of miRNA levels is critical for normal functioning in cells, the dysregulation of miRNAs is often associated with human diseases such as cancer. By proposing a model for the biogenesis of miRNAs and by identifying several key factors such as Drosha, we have made major contributions to the current understanding of how miRNAs are created and regulated. We have also been investigating the function and regulation of miRNAs in cancer and stem cells.
We are also interested in other types of RNA-related processes. We are studying RNA modifications, in particular terminal nucleotidyl transfer or tailing. We are also interested in the processing and translational control of mRNA. As RNAs are always accompanied by their protein partners in cells, RNA-binding proteins are another major topic in the lab.
To investigate post-transcriptional gene regulation, we employ diverse approaches including biochemical, structural and molecular biological methodologies, as well as genetic, proteomic, transcriptomic and computational tools. We have been developing new technologies to study transcriptome and proteome, and applying them to understand the reprogramming of embryos and stem cells, the regulation of cell cycle, and the molecular basis of memory formation. These studies may potentially provide new opportunities for cancer treatment and stem cell engineering.
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