COBRE Research Project #1, Dr. Mira Han, Project PI

Integrated Prediction of Tissue of Origin in Cancers of Unknown Primary

5P20GM121325-02, Sub-Project ID: 8462

Dr. Han is investigating Cancers of Unknown Primary (CUPs), which are cancers that are found at a metastatic stage, but without a primary site. Knowing the primary site for CUPs is important, because it can direct the therapies in cases where there are primary site-specific therapies available. Since DNA methylation is tissue-specific and change with cell differentiation, methylation sites are good markers for identifying tissue of origins. This project aims to find the methylation markers that are useful for tissue identification, and to develop the bioinformatics pipeline that enables primary site prediction. Using the markers and the pipeline developed, we will be able to better predict primary sites for CUPs.

COBRE Research Project #2, Dr. Qing Wu, Project PI

Developing the Genetics-Enhanced Model to Derive Personalized Reference Ranges for Bone Density

5P20GM121325-02, Sub-Project ID: 8463

Dr. Wu’s research will increase the accuracy of osteoporosis diagnosis by using individualized clinical reference ranges based on individual genetic makeup and environment. With human life expectancy increasing, osteoporotic fracture is becoming a major public health issue. The purpose of this project is to create a genomics-enhanced method for generating personalized reference ranges of bone mineral density for diagnosing osteoporosis. This innovative approach is expected to be much more accurate at predicting osteoporotic fractures than existing methods, and is likely to greatly contribute to the diagnosis, prevention, and cure of osteoporosis. This approach is expected to be much more accurate at predicting osteoporotic fractures than existing methods, and is likely to greatly contribute to the diagnosis, prevention, and cure of osteoporosis.

COBRE Research Project #3, Dr. Jingchun Chen, Project PI

Schizophrenia and Autoimmune Disorders: The Role of Microglial Cells

5P20GM121325-02, Sub-Project ID: 8464

Dr. Chen is investigating the functional role of microglia and immune system dysfunction in schizophrenia etiology to help identify new genetic markers for subtyping schizophrenia and to develop new therapeutic strategies. Studies have shown that there is a strong association between schizophrenia, autoimmune disorders, and inflammation. A large body of evidence also shows that immune cells, like microglia in the brain, are the major mediators in the development of schizophrenia. Here, we are studying the genetic relationship between schizophrenia and autoimmune disorders. We will also investigate the role of microglia in schizophrenia. The research has a great potential to elucidate the role of the immune system in some schizophrenia subgroup, and help to discover novel molecular biomarkers for diagnosis, and effective targets for the personalized schizophrenia treatment.

COBRE Research Project #4, Dr. Nora Caberoy, Project PI

Phagocytosis of Amyloid Beta

5P20GM121325-02, Sub-Project ID: TBD

Dr. Caberoy is researching the buildup of harmful amyloid beta protein that aggregates in the Alzheimer’s brain. Normally, amyloid betas are removed by specialized cells in the brain called microglia. However, the removal of these aggregates leads to activation of the inflammatory pathway that eventually results in death of the brain cells. A long-term goal is to develop novel therapeutic strategy for clearing deleterious metabolic products to prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s is a progressive, neurodegenerative disease that is poorly understood and has no cure, existing treatments only address some psychological and behavioral symptoms. Thus, effective pharmacological intervention for prevention and treatment are essential. This project investigates the role of engineered hybrid proteins in the clearance of amyloid beta and to test their potential for therapy to prevent progression of Alzheimer’s disease in an animal model.