Research

Personalized medicine relies on diagnostic tests that can quickly identify specific diseases, and on therapies that are tailored to treat the unique molecular causes of each disease. Our laboratory uses a multidisciplinary approach to discover new tools that will advance the cause of personalized medicine. 

Much of our work is based on the study of proteins, since most human disease is the result of protein dysfunction and nearly all drugs either act through proteins or are themselves proteins. 

When the body’s immune system is triggered by an antigen, it releases antibodies, a type of protein in the blood that plays a key role in immune response. We are working to identify and detect specific antibodies that the body releases in response to antigens from sources such as tumors, cancer-specific proteins and tuberculosis bacteria, as well as autoantibodies in Type 1 diabetes. Our goal is to uncover biomarkers for early disease diagnosis and opportunities for new treatments. 

Triple-negative breast cancer is a challenge to diagnose and treat. Our lab is investigating the molecular pathways that drive its development, particularly the role of the p53 protein, with the aim of developing more targeted therapies. 

The body also releases antibodies in response to antigens from infecting microorganisms. We are exploring the connection between diseases and changes in the microbiome, with a particular focus on colorectal cancer, in order to discover antibody biomarkers. 

Additionally, our lab studies how behavioral and environmental factors affect how people’s genes work, a field called epigenetics. We are especially interested in creating point-of-care tests that use epigenetic biomarkers to rapidly measure the amount of unintentionally absorbed radiation as well as to identify the nature and severity of exposure to weapons of mass destruction. 

For more information about our specific studies, please visit the pages of our faculty members. 

Areas of investigation
  • Cancers of the breast, lung, ovary, cervix, colon, stomach and pancreas. 
  • Infectious diseases, including viral, bacterial and fungal types. 
  • Autoimmune diseases, including diabetes, inflammatory bowel diseases, inflammatory joint diseases and post-transplant diseases. 
  • Duchenne muscular dystrophy. 
  • Injuries, including wound healing and spinal cord injury. 
  • Epigenetic changes from exposure to radiation and weapons of mass destruction. 
Capabilities
  • The world’s largest collection of full-length genes for humans and other model organisms and pathogens. 
  • Methods for displaying all of the proteins of an organism. 
  • High-throughput methods to detect genes targeted by miRNAs. 
  • Methods to isolate and sequence transcriptomes and miRNAomes from unique tissue types from model organisms. 
  • Analytic methods for examining genome-wide gene expression, epigenomic changes and post-transcriptional processing. 
  • Biostatistical methods for evaluating big data.