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The overall goal of our lab is to perform research that contributes to a better understanding of pancreatic cancer biology and leads to improved treatments for this disease. One major focus of our studies is the metabolic activity, autophagy, which is a self-degradation process whereby cells can orderly clear defective organelles and recycle macromolecules as a nutrient source. Current projects are focused on further advancing autophagy inhibition as an anti-RAS therapeutic approach, as well as delineating other metabolic consequences of RAF-MEK-ERK MAPK inhibition.

My lab is focused on the improvement of treatment of chronic bacterial infections. We aim to determine the mechanisms of antibiotic tolerance. Our aim is to understand the physiology of the bacterial cell, primarily Staphylococcus aureus, during infection and how this physiology allows the cell to survive lethal doses of antibiotic. We will use advanced methods such as single cell analysis and Tn-seq to determine the factors that facilitate survival in the antibiotic’s presence. Once we understand this tolerance, we will develop advanced screens to identify novel compounds that can be developed into therapeutics that can kill these drug tolerant “persister” cells and eradicate deep-seated infections.

Appropriate allocation of cellular lipid stores is paramount to maintaining organismal energy homeostasis. Dysregulation of these pathways can manifest in human metabolic syndromes, including cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, and cancer. The goal of my lab is to elucidate the molecular mechanisms that govern the storage, metabolism, and intercellular transport of lipids; as well as understand how these circuits interface with other cellular homeostatic pathways (e.g., growth and aging). We utilize C. elegans as a model system to interrogate these evolutionarily conserved pathways, combining genetic approaches (forward and reverse genetic screens, CRISPR) with genomic methodologies (ChIP-Seq, mRNA-Seq, DNA-Seq) to identify new components and mechanisms of metabolic regulation.

Our laboratory studies the role of the blood coagulation system in inflammatory, infectious, and malignant disease. Specifically, we are interested in better defining the roles of factors such as prothrombin, fibrinogen and plasminogen in driving disease processes in the contexts of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC), Staphylococcus aureus infection, and obesity/metabolic syndrome. Current studies suggest that coagulation factors drive mechanisms of disease both dependent and independent of their traditional roles in hemostasis and thrombosis. Our overall goal is to translate this knowledge into novel approaches for treating these common yet deadly diseases.

The human placenta is the first organ to develop after fertilization and is the least studied! We hope to change this by using a multidisciplinary approach. From iPSC-derived trophoblasts in culture to mouse models and human placenta tissue, the Placental Cell Biology Group at NIEHS answers fundamental questions about placenta cell and developmental biology. Our lab uses a range of microscopy (cryo-EM, fluorescence), recombinant protein production, and -omics techniques. The goal of our research is to understand how autophagy controls placenta development, differentiation, and function.

Hursting, Stephen D
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Dr. Hursting’s lab focuses on the molecular and metabolic mechanisms underlying nutrition and  cancer associations, particularly the impact of obesity and energy balance modulation (eg, calorie restriction, exercise) on cancer development or responses to chemotherapy. Primarily using genetically engineered mouse models of pancreatic, colon and breast cancer, Dr. Hursting has identified the IGF-1/Akt/mTOR and NF-kB signaling pathways as key targets for breaking the obesity- cancer link.  He has also established in several preclinical models of pancreatic and breast cancer that obesity impacts the response to various forms of chemotherapy.  In addition, the Hursting lab is involved in several translational research collaborations linking mouse model studies with clinical trials, and his group has expertise in measuring metabolic hormones, growth factors, inflammatory cytokines and chemokines in serum and tissue from rodents and humans.

Our lab uses cell culture and animal models to define the mechanisms that lead to heart failure and to identify novel approaches to its treatment.  We are particularly interested in the roles of inflammation and cardiomyocyte metabolism in the pathobiology of the failing heart. Ongoing projects focus on (1) the cardioprotective role of the alpha-1A adrenergic receptor; (2) transcriptional regulation by the nuclear receptor ROR-alpha; (3) cardiotoxicity of antineoplastic kinase inhibitors.

Antiretroviral therapy (ART) is effective in suppressing HIV-1 replication in the periphery, however, it fails to eradicate HIV-1 reservoirs in patients. The main barrier for HIV cure is the latent HIV-1, hiding inside the immune cells where no or very low level of viral particles are made. This prevents our immune system to recognize the latent reservoirs to clear the infection. The main goal of my laboratory is to discover the molecular mechanisms how HIV-1 achieves its latent state and to translate our understanding of HIV latency into therapeutic intervention.

Several research programs are undertaking in my lab with a focus of epigenetic regulation of HIV latency, including molecular mechanisms of HIV replication and latency establishment, host-virus interaction, innate immune response to viral infection, and the role of microbiome in the gut health. Extensive in vitro HIV latency models, ex vivo patient latency models, and in vivo patient and rhesus macaque models of AIDS are carried out in my lab. Multiple tools are applied in our studies, including RNA-seq, proteomics, metabolomics, highly sensitive digital droplet PCR and tissue RNA/DNAscope, digital ELISA, and modern and traditional molecular biological and biochemical techniques. We are also very interested in how non-CD4 expression cells in the Central Nervous System (CNS) get infected by HIV-1, how the unique interaction among HIV-1, immune cells, vascular cells, and neuron cells contributes to the initial seeding of latent reservoirs in the CNS, and whether we can target the unique viral infection and latency signaling pathways to attack HIV reservoirs in CNS for a cure/remission of HIV-1 and HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders (HAND). We have developed multiple tools to attack HIV latency, including latency reversal agents for “Shock and Kill” strategy, such as histone deacetylase inhibitors and ingenol family compounds of protein kinase C agonists, and latency enforcing agents for deep silencing of latent HIV-1. Several clinical and pre-clinical studies are being tested to evaluate their potential to eradicate latent HIV reservoirs in vivo. We are actively recruiting postdocs, visiting scholars, and technicians. Rotation graduate students and undergraduate students are welcome to join my lab, located in the UNC HIV Cure Center, for these exciting HIV cure research projects.

Endothelial cells, which comprise the innermost wall of all blood vessels, are involved in a broad range of metabolic and cardiovascular diseases that represent a global challenge with high morbidity. Endothelial cell metabolism is an active process, and altered endothelial metabolism drive disease progression. The research in my lab focuses on the molecular mechanisms of endothelial cell metabolism and how they affect cardiovascular and metabolic diseases.

Dr. Krupenko’s research is focused on the role of folate metabolism in cellular homeostasis and cancer disease. He is especially interested in the function of a major folate enzyme and a putative tumor suppressor ALDH1L1 as metabolic regulator and a guardian of non-malignant phenotype. At present he studies function of this enzyme and related proteins using mouse knockout models. Recently his research team has also demonstrated that dietary folate regulates cancer metastasis. He now pursues studies of specific signaling pathways involved in metastatic response to dietary folate status.

My laboratory is interested in the role of folate and related metabolic pathways in methyl group metabolism, and their involvement in pathogenesis and etiology of diseases. We have recently discovered a novel function of a folate-binding methyltransferase GNMT in the regulation of cellular proliferation, and now study the genetic variations in GNMT and their effects on new function. Our lab is also interested in the cross talk between folate metabolism and sphingolipid pathways as a mediator of folate stress with the goal of exploiting this connection to improve human health.

Overall goal of our research is to gain better knowledge of gene-gene and gene-environment interactions in common cardiovascular conditions in humans. We have been modifying mouse genome in such a way that resulting mice can model quantitative variations of a specific gene product that occur in human population. With these mice, we explore causes, mechanisms, and nutritional treatments of cardiovascular complications resulted from common conditions such as diabetes, lung infections, and pregnancy-associated hypertension. Current focus is on the oxidative stress and effects of vitamin B12 as antioxidant and beyond.

The McCauley Lab is interested in how the food we eat changes our physiology. Rare, nutrient sensing cells in the intestine called enteroendocrine cells secrete hormones in response to environmental cues that orchestrate systemic metabolism. How these cells regulate their neighbors in the gut is not well understood. We use mouse models which lack enteroendocrine cells and human pluripotent stem cell derived intestinal organoids to discover new roles for these master metabolic cells in the regulation of intestinal physiology and function. Enteroendocrine cells are dysregulated in inflammatory bowel disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity, and loss of enteroendocrine cells results in malabsorptive diarrhea with poor survival. Our research has the potential to improve human health for a wide segment of the global population.

The Morris lab leverages flexible mouse models of hard to treat cancers of the pancreas and liver to identify how cancer drivers perturb evolutionarily selected developmental programs and how such programs may be re-normalized. We focus on (1) the relationship between tumor suppressor pathways and the epigenetic determinants of cell plasticity, (2) evolutionary routes unleashed by specific tumor suppressor loss, and (3) how diversification at both the epigenetic and genomic level contribute to cancer development and therapeutic response.

The main goal of the Nagarajan lab research program focuses on how the innate branch of the immune system regulates adaptive immunity, as it relates to the pathogenesis of autoimmune disease such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis (RA)-induced cardiovascular disease.   IgG-Fcgamma receptor (FcgR)-mediated signaling is critical for mediating host defense against infectious disease, but they also mediate disease pathology in autoimmunity and atherosclerosis. Specifically, we are studying the role of IgG-Fcgamma receptor (FcgR) signaling network in innate immune cells activation that contributes to autoantibody production and T cell subset activation associated with autoimmune, and cardiovascular diseases.  We are using a repertoire of relevant knockout mouse and humanized FcgR mouse models to address the questions of how FcgR-mediated signaling promotes autoimmune disease-induced atherosclerosis. As a translational component, we are collaborating with rheumatologists and cardiologists to analyze changes in innate and T cell subsets in patients with lupus or RA, who has premature atherosclerosis.

We are interested in unraveling the molecular basis for human disease and discover new treatments focused on human and microbial targets. Our work extends from atomic-level studies using structural biology, through chemical biology efforts to identify new drugs, and into cellular, animal and clinical investigations. While we are currently focused on the gut microbiome, past work has examined how drugs are detected and degraded in humans, proteins designed to protect soldiers from chemical weapons, how antibiotic resistance spreads, and novel approaches to treat bacterial infections. The Redinbo Laboratory actively works to increase equity and inclusion in our lab, in science, and in the world. Our lab is centered around collaboration, open communication, and trust. We welcome and support anyone regardless of race, disability, gender identification, sexual orientation, age, financial background, or religion. We aim to: 1) Provide an inclusive, equitable, and encouraging work environment 2) Actively broaden representation in STEM to correct historical opportunity imbalances 3) Respect and support each individual’s needs, decisions, and career goals 4) Celebrate our differences and use them to discover new ways of thinking and to better our science and our community

The Schisler Lab is geared towards understanding and designing therapies for diseases involving proteinopathies- pathologies stemming from protein misfolding, aggregation, and disruption of protein quality control pathways. We focus on cardiovascular diseases including the now more appreciated overlap with neurological diseases such as CHIPopathy (or SCAR16, discovered here in our lab) and polyQ diseases. We use molecular, cellular, and animal-based models often in combination with clinical datasets to help drive our understanding of disease in translation to new therapies.

The Shaikh lab aims to understand how differing dietary fatty acids regulate outcomes associated with immunity and metabolism in the context of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases. The lab conducts studies at the human level and in mouse models.  We are currently focused on the mechanisms by which omega-3 fatty acids improve chronic inflammation and humoral immunity upon viral infection in obesity. We are also elucidating how select fatty acids disrupt the biophysical organization of the inner mitochondrial membrane of differing cell types and thereby respiratory activity.

The Thaxton laboratory studies the intersection of stress and metabolism in immune cells for applications in cancer immunotherapy. Our pursuits center around the biology of the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). We aim to define how stress on the ER defines changes in protein homeostasis, metabolic fate, and antitumor efficacy of immune subsets in human tumors. In order to pursue our goals we collaborate vigorously with clinicians, creating a highly translational platform to expand our discoveries. Moreover, we design unique mouse models and use innovate technologies such as metabolic tracing, RNA-sequencing, and spectral flow cytometry to study how the stress of solid tumors impacts immune function. Ultimately, we aim to discover new ways to restore immune function in solid tumors to offer unique therapies for cancer patients.

By 2035, more than 500 million people worldwide will be diagnosed with diabetes. Individuals with diabetes are prone to frequent and invasive infections that commonly manifest as skin and soft tissue infections (SSTIs). Staphylococcus aureus is the most commonly isolated pathogen from diabetic SSTI. S. aureus is a problematic pathogen that is responsible for tens of thousands of invasive infections and deaths annually in the US. Most S. aureus infections manifest as skin and soft tissue infections (SSTIs) that are usually self-resolving. However, in patients with comorbidities, particularly diabetes, S. aureus SSTIs can disseminate resulting in systemic disease including osteomyelitis, endocarditis and sepsis. The goal of my research is to understand the complex interactions between bacterial pathogens and the host innate immune response with focus on S. aureus and invasive infections associated with diabetes. My research is roughly divided into two project areas in order to understand the contributions of the pathogen and the host response to invasive infections associated with diabetes. Project 1: Defining mechanisms of immune suppression in diabetic infections. Project 2: Determine the role of bacterial metabolism in virulence potential and pathogenesis.

We are interested in understanding how autoreactive B cells become re-activated to secrete autoantibodies that lead to autoimmune disease.  Our research is focused on understanding how signal transduction through the B cell antigen receptor (BCR) and Toll Like Receptors (TLR) lead to secretion of autoantibodies in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE).