Biology research may lead to new insight into stem cell division and tumor formation

Biology research may lead to new insight into stem cell division and tumor formation

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Study will investigate cell defects seen in many cancers

Bryan Phillips, an assistant professor in the University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Department of Biology, was recently awarded a three-year grant by the Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust in the amount of $372,828.

A dividing C. elegans embryonic cell showing a fluorescently-tagged regulator of gene expression localizing to centrosomes (yellow) while the chromosomes separate (stained in blue).
A dividing C. elegans embryonic cell showing a fluorescently-tagged regulator of gene expression localizing to centrosomes (yellow) while the chromosomes separate (stained in blue). Photo provided by Bryan Phillips.

With the grant, Phillips will study proteins that regulate asymmetric stem cell division and cell fate specification during development. Defects in asymmetric stem cell division are seen in a host of cancers and metastases, including colorectal cancer, the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States.

Over 90 percent of all colorectal tumors contain mutations that result in defects in the Wnt pathway, a conserved cell communication pathway currently under study in the Phillips lab.

Phillips’ research will more specifically focus on studying the Wnt cell communication pathway in C. elegans, a powerful and widely used experimental model animal that utilizes Wnt signaling in its hypodermal stem cell divisions. This pathway also regulates asymmetric cell divisions in the intestine of mammals where it regulates differentiation and asymmetric division of intestinal stem cells.

With his research, Phillips hopes to gain new insight into the activation of the Wnt cell signaling pathways and how they control asymmetric cell division and tumor formation. This could translate to the development of new drugs aimed at Wnt signaling components during defective asymmetric division in human disease.

The Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust was created in 1987 and is one of the largest private philanthropic foundations in the state of Iowa. During the course of its history, the trust has distributed more than $258 million in the form of nearly 2,000 grants. For more information about the Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust, visit carvertrust.org.

Contacts

Steve Kehoe, Department of Biology, 319-335-1050

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