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Breakthrough publication! Our recent paper in Nature Communications explains the novel structure-function mechanism by which cholesterol promotes colon cancer. From a functional perspective, Wnt factors organize to form specialized plasma membrane (PM) domains. Dysregulation of Wnt domain structure can promote oncogenic Wnt signaling. Here, we describe an intricate Wnt signaling-associated mechanism involving oncogenic truncated APC and the loss of PM cholesterol homeostasis, which alters the organization of Wnt signaling nanoassemblies (biomolecular condensates) and drives aberrant Wnt signaling and CRC tumorigenesis. These highly significant findings are relevant to the nascent field of “membrane therapy”.
Texas A&M receives $6 million to create Center of Excellence in Cancer
Texas A&M University Health Science Center (Texas A&M Health) has been awarded a five-year, $6 million grant from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, CPRIT, to support the creation of a Texas Regional Excellence in Cancer, or TREC, Center.
The grant takes advantage of resources available to Texas A&M University to establish the infrastructure required to advance a cohesive vision to address unmet needs in cancer prevention and treatment regionally and across the nation.
The Texas A&M University Center of Excellence in Cancer will focus on mentoring early career investigators interested in cancer research, recruiting outstanding cancer researchers, and creating a highly interactive environment that promotes collaborations and incentivizes development of impactful cancer research programs of national and international relevance.
The program will draw from a talented pool of investigators from different academic units to study how biology and genes are modified by environmental and lifestyle factors to influence cancer risk and how to effectively use this knowledge to increase precision in cancer prevention and health care delivery.
Kenneth Ramos, MD, PhD, Alkek Chair in Medical Genetics, executive director of the Texas A&M Health Institute of Biosciences and Technology and assistant vice chancellor for health services at The Texas A&M University System, will serve as director of the center, and Robert Chapkin, PhD, University Distinguished Professor and Allen Endowed Chair in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Department of Nutrition and Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, will serve as deputy director of this five-year grant.
The key components of the center include a Single Cell Data Analysis Core overseen by James Cai, PhD, created to facilitate single cell multi-omics research, and a Cancer Prevention Clinicogenomics Registry Core overseen by Rick Silva, PhD, to provide context for implementation of translational strategies in support of TREC projects.
Additional components include an Administrative Core, a recruitment committee and mentoring teams. Evaluation efforts will be overseen by Marcia Ory, PhD, Regents and Distinguished Professor at the Texas A&M School of Public Health.
The TREC initiative will build a critical mass of cancer researchers at Texas A&M, facilitate collaborations within and outside the institution, and support innovative cancer research that improves cancer prevention and the development of cures for these devastating diseases.
Project leaders include:
- Sanjukta Chakraborty, PhD, assistant professor, Department of Medical Physiology; Primary Mentor: Stephen Safe, PhD, University Distinguished Professor, Veterinary Medicine
- Irtisha Singh, PhD, assistant professor, Department of Cell Biology and Genetics; Primary Mentor: Nancy Huang, PhD, associate professor, Institute of Biosciences and Technology
- Shogo Sato, PhD, assistant professor, Department of Biology; Primary Mentor: Weston Porter, PhD, professor, Veterinary Medicine
- Shreya Raghavan, PhD, assistant professor, Department of Biomedical Engineering; Primary Mentor: Tanmay Lele, PhD, Unocal Professor, Biomedical Engineering and Chemical Engineering
Kenneth Ramos, MD, PhD, Robert Chapkin, PhD, Sanjukta Chakraborty, PhD, and Tanmay Lele, PhD, are CPRIT grantees who have been awarded grants for other projects.
Jennie P. Kim, a Nutritional Sciences major working on her Undergraduate Research Scholars Thesis in the Chapkin Lab (https://chapkinlab.tamu.edu) was recently awarded second place for her poster presentation in the Agricultural and Life Sciences category at the Texas A&M Student Research Week competition (https://srw.tamu.edu). Student Research Week is the largest student-run research symposium in the nation, spotlighting student research conducted at Texas A&M University. Currently, her research focuses on the effects of short-chain fatty acids (e.g., butyrate) on colonic organoid stem cell homeostasis and gene expression in high vs. normal glucose conditions. She plans to continue her involvement in undergraduate research in the Chapkin Lab and hopes to provide important contributions related to the expanding field of Precision Nutrition.