Tony Yu-Chen Tsai, MD, PhD

Dr. Tsai [Kenneth G. and Elaine A. Langone Fellow] seeks to understand how the signaling pathway directed by the protein Sonic Hedgehog (Shh) regulates cell-cell adhesion molecules required for correct spatial organization of the neuro-epithelium. Abnormal Shh signaling is associated with several types of cancer, and aberrant regulation of cell-cell adhesion could lead to tumor metastasis. His findings may ultimately lead to understanding and prevention of metastasis in Shh-associated cancers.

Hume Akahori Stroud, PhD

Dr. Stroud [HHMI Fellow] is examining the distinct role of MeCP2, a protein that binds methyl-CpG-DNA and regulates neuronal chromatin, which "packages" DNA. The proposed research has significant implications for causes and mechanisms of cancer, as dysregulation of DNA methylation and other chromatin modifications represent early oncogenic events in a wide range of human cancers.  His project may have particular relevance to cancers of the nervous system.

Ryan D. Baldridge, PhD

Dr. Baldridge focuses on a cellular process called endoplasmic reticulum associated degradation (ERAD), a system involved in recognition, transport and degradation of regulated and misfolded proteins. ERAD plays a role in cancer processes, in some instances by regulating the levels of proteins involved in tumor growth and metastasis. In other cases ERAD is upregulated to relieve ER stress caused by tumor growth.

Thomas S. Vierbuchen, PhD

Dr. Vierbuchen [HHMI Fellow] aims to understand how neurons adapt to experience by modifying the complement of genes they express. He is using high-throughput sequencing-based approaches to identify and characterize the function of genomic regulatory elements that control neuronal activity-regulated gene transcription. 

Justin L. Sparks, PhD

Dr. Sparks focuses on a protein complex called the eukaryotic replisome, which replicates cellular DNA during cell division. He is studying how the replisome handles persistent bulky DNA lesions that block the progression of the replicative helicase enzyme and how cells repair covalent DNA-protein cross-links (DPCs). DPCs are generated by formaldehyde and other endogenous metabolites and environmental mutagens and are almost certainly important for cancer etiology.