Scientists in Training Earn Competitive Funding Awards

Postdoc to study cell fate and signalling with three-year fellowship

During development, special signaling centers within an organism instruct the growth and differentiation of neighboring cells and establish patterns critical to the formation of adult organ systems. In adult organisms, regeneration of damaged organs and abnormal growth of diseased tissues (tumors) also require the formation of signaling regions that induce growth and differentiation in nearby cells, but less is known about these processes in adult tissues.

With a highly competitive three-year fellowship grant from the Jane Coffin Childs Memorial Fund for Medical Research, Blair Benham-Pyle, PhD, will focus her research efforts on identifying the cell types and signaling patterns required for adult tissue regeneration as well as the unique signaling molecules and cellular interactions that are required for successful tissue patterning and organization.

Benham-Pyle, a postdoc in the Sánchez Alvarado Lab, will undertake her research in planarian worms because they provide a unique opportunity to study organizing activity in adult tissues due to their extraordinary ability to regenerate entire organ systems from tiny tissue fragments.

Benham-Pyle anticipates that her work will shed light on mechanisms underlying the remodeling and self-assembly of adult tissues, which could advance the fields of cancer biology and regenerative medicine.

Studies proposed to further understand a cancer treatment secure postdoc a fellowship

SAHA is an FDA-approved chemotherapeutic agent that has found success as a treatment for T-cell lymphoma. This histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitor is part of over 240 past or ongoing clinical trials that seek to examine SAHA efficacy as a treatment option for many other cancers. Yet despite widespread study at the clinical level, the therapeutic potential of SAHA and other HDAC inhibitors is hampered by a rudimentary understanding of the molecular mechanisms that mediate their actions.

Mark Adams, PhD, a postdoctoral research associate in the Washburn Lab, has won fellowship funding from the National Institutes of Health for studies that may shed light upon these mechanisms and characterize the response of the SIN3 HDAC complexes to SAHA.

Because SAHA and other HDAC inhibitors are already components of clinical treatment plans, this research has the potential to produce information immediately relevant to therapeutic use. Longer term, these findings may provide the groundwork for the development of HDAC inhibitors that target specific aspects of HDAC complexes and produce fewer side effects.

Early Independence Award goes to Stowers postdoc

Chuankai Zhou, PhD, joined the company of other exceptional young scientists when he was selected as a 2017 NIH Director’s Early Independence awardee. The five-year award supports outstanding junior scientists who demonstrate the intellect, scientific creativity, drive, and maturity needed to flourish independently and allows an opportunity to bypass the traditional postdoctoral training period. It is designed to travel with the researcher to an independent research position.

Zhou, who was a postdoc in the Kausik Si Lab, recently began a position at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging in Novato, California. There, he continues to study the factors that underlie aging, specifically what happens when a process called proteostasis, which helps maintain a healthy balance of proteins within a cell, is disrupted and aggregated proteins accumulate. Zhou anticipates this work will advance the understanding of aging and age-related diseases that involve proteostasis, thereby establishing a basis for future explorations of rejuvenating aged cells and developing interventions for age-related diseases.