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Saba Valadkhan, MD, PhD

Assistant Professor, Biochemistry 216.368.1068 (o) 216.368.3914 (f)

Member, Molecular Oncology Program 


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Research in our lab is focused on the role of long non-coding RNAs in higher eukaryotes. Large scale analyses of transcriptional output of the eukaryotic genomes have revealed the existence of a very large number of long non-coding transcripts. While the majority of them remain unstudied, current evidence suggest that the study of these mysterious transcripts is likely to provide answers to many remaining questions in biology of higher eukaryotes.

Using examples of mouse and human long non-coding RNAs as study models, we focus on in-depth analysis of their role in a number of fundamental biological processes:

1) Long non-coding RNAs in neurogenesis

We have shown that the expression of a long non-coding RNA is required for physiological neuronal differentiation. Interestingly, we could also show that forced ectopic expression of this RNA in myoblasts and fibroblasts leads to their reprogramming into neurons. Currently, active projects in the lab address the mechanism of this intriguing observation and potential implications in regenerative medicine.

2) The role of long non-coding RNAs in neurodegenerative diseases

Another active project in the lab is based on our observation that a long non-coding RNA plays a major role in regulating the magnitude of the canonical stress response pathway. Considering the critical role of the stress response pathway in neurodegenerative diseases, we are in the process of defining the role of our RNA in neurodegenerative processes and its potential as a therapeutic measure.

3) Long non-coding RNAs and cancer

We have shown that the expression of a long non-coding RNA is progressively increased as breast and lung cancer cells acquire invasive and metastatic properties. We are in the process of defining the interactions of this RNA with the cellular pathways active in cancer, in addition to in vivo studies in the mouse to define the impact of altering the expression of this RNA on tumor progression.