CDDC announces 2nd Regional Research Symposium award winners

Madhukar Kolli, BMS Ph.D. CandidateOn March 23, 2012, the Marshall University Cell Differentiation and Development Center (CDDC) held its second annual regional research symposium. The CDDC symposium focused on bioinformatics and the ways in which it is used to study the molecular interactions involved in the regulation of gene expression.

The event involves poster presentations, scientific talks, and awards. The following are the recipients of this year’s awards:

  • Undergraduate winner: Clayton Crabtree (from Dr. Dasgupta’s lab)
  • Graduate winners: M. Allison Wolf and Sarah Mathis (both from Dr. Claudio’s lab)
  • Graduate runners-up: Madhukar Kolli (from Dr. Blough’s lab) and Gargi Bajpayee (a medical student who researched in Dr. Santanam’s lab)

The CDDC was formed in 2007 and seeks to enhance the research environment on the Marshall campus and throughout West Virginia. Although its research interests are diverse, the center focuses on the epigenetic mechanisms linked to cell differentiation and development.

Award winners pictured:

Right: Madhukar Kolli
Directly below (from left to right): M. Allison Wolf and Sarah Mathis
Bottom photo: Gargi Bajpayee

Allison Wolf and Sarah Mathis, Ph.D. candidates

Drs. Hardman and Georgel highlighted by DoD Breast Cancer Research Program

Dr. Philippe Georgel and Dr. W. Elaine HardmanDr. Philippe Georgel and Dr. W. Elaine Hardman have received considerable publicity in the past few years over their receipt of a grant from the Department of Defense’s Breast Cancer Research Program. Their most recent honor comes in being highlighted in the latest program book for the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs’ (CDMRP) Breast Cancer Research Program. Their research, the result of a DoD FY09 Idea Expansion award, is entitled “Maternal Consumption of Omega-3 Fatty Acids May Prevent Breast Cancer in Offspring.”

In 1992, the CDMRP was created after breast cancer advocates were able to bring about congressional appropriation of funds dedicated to breast cancer research. The fund seeks to find a way to stamp out breast cancer through support of research that is innovative and has the potential of great impact in the understanding of breast cancer. The CDMRP has received more than $6.5 billion in appropriations since its creation. Receipt of the award comes after a two-tier review process consisting of participation between breast cancer survivors and research scientists. Award of the grant is based upon the relevance of the research to the goals of the program and the scientific merit of the proposed research.

The research of Drs. Hardman and Georgel is directed toward determining which gene expression changes in mice offspring are brought about by feeding pregnant mice a diet that includes canola oil (which contains omega-3) versus a diet that contains corn oil (a control). They then compare the mammary cancer rates of the offspring groups after they are exposed to a carcinogen. Results from their research already indicate differences in microRNA and epigenetic expression in the offspring, as well as changes in the expression of genes related to mammary tumorigenesis, including NF-kappaB.

Congratulations to Dr. Georgel and Dr. Hardman! To read the spotlight on their research in the CDMRP booklet (see page 19), please download the file through this link: http://cdmrp.army.mil/pubs/pips/bcpip.pdf.

Dr. Georgel and BMS doctoral student J. Adam Hall co-author chapter

Philippe Georgel, Ph.D.Marshall University doctoral student J. Adam Hall and faculty member Dr. Philippe T. Georgel have collaborated to write a chapter for a new book focusing on RNA processing in animal and plant cells.

Their chapter describes the interaction between RNA splicing and chromatin, and appears in the book “RNA Processing,” which was edited by Paula Grabowski and published in August. The book is freely available online through open access publisher InTech.

In describing their research, Hall explains that RNA, or ribonucleic acid, acts as the “middle man” of molecular biology. DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid, is the carrier of basic genetic information. A cell uses DNA to make RNA, which in turn makes proteins.

Hall says that alterations to RNA can have a significant influence on the type and/or amount of protein produced, creating crucial differences in the identity of the cell and how it functions. The study of these modifications caused by factors outside of the DNA sequence itself is known as “epigenetics.”

“Factors and mechanisms involved in the epigenetic regulation of gene expression and protein production have been linked to a variety of human diseases and developmental disorders,” said Hall. “Furthering the knowledge of these epigenetic processes and the factors involved, including the information we highlighted for this publication, will be a crucial component of translating scientific advances into potential medical breakthroughs down the road.”

Georgel added, “In recent years, a much better understanding of gene regulation has led to many important breakthroughs in the fields of cellular differentiation, development and disease. The specific mechanism of regulation we describe in this chapter has never been reported before in any biological system, so we think it could be an important contribution to the existing body of work.”

J. Adam Hall, Ph.D. studentA native of Crown City, Ohio, Hall received his bachelor’s degree in molecular biology from Marshall in 2005 and started his doctoral studies in 2006. He finished his graduate coursework with a 4.0 grade point average and was awarded the Biomedical Sciences program’s top award for academic performance in 2007 and research performance in 2008. In 2009, Hall became the first Marshall student to receive the prestigious National Institutes of Health Ruth L. Kirschstein Pre-doctoral Fellowship, which provided two years of support totaling more than $70,000. He will complete his Ph.D. in December and plans to continue his scientific career in the field of epigenetics, with a focus on translational research.

Georgel is a professor of biological sciences and director of Marshall’s Cell Differentiation and Development Center. He has been at Marshall since 2002.

The complete chapter is available at http://www.intechopen.com/source/pdfs/18456/InTech-The_worlds_of_splicing_and_chromatin_collide.pdf.

For more information, contact Georgel at georgel@marshall.edu or call 304-696-3965.