Damon Runyon Researchers

Meet Our Scientists
Erin E. Duffy, PhD

Throughout brain development, neurons fire action potentials which are important to shape and refine brain connectivity, and this refinement occurs in part through dynamic changes in gene expression. Neuronal activity can also drive the progression of pediatric gliomas, underscoring a need to understand the molecular basis of activity-dependent gene expression in the brain. Dr. Duffy [National Mah Jongg League Breakthrough Scientist] is exploring how neuronal activity can drive local changes in gene expression by modulating RNA turnover and translation into proteins, and how these processes are misregulated in pediatric gliomas. She has identified cancer-associated mutations that disrupt RNA turnover in the brain and is interested in understanding the proteins that regulate this process as a mechanism to drive cancer progression. She has also developed high-throughput screening methods to test hundreds of disease-associated mutations in parallel to assay how they affect neuronal RNA turnover, which may reveal new molecular targets for cancer therapeutics.

Project title: "Activity-dependent changes in RNA stability as a mechanism for synaptic plasticity"
Institution: Harvard Medical School
Named Award: National Mah Jongg League Breakthrough Scientist
Award Program: Dale Frey Scientist
Cancer Type: Brain
Research Area: Neuroscience