NIH Awards $2.8 Million to FAU Researchers and Collaborators
Researchers will work to define the mechanisms governing how cells decide whether to become a mature cell or whether to die. Their work will shed light on how to make transplantable tissues to cure diseases.
The National Eye Institute of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded a $2.8 million, multi-institution grant to Marc Kantorow, Ph.D., professor and director of graduate studies in the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine at Florida Atlantic University, and Sue Menko, Ph.D., a professor at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. Investigators of this four-year project, which include co-principal investigator Lisa Brennan, Ph.D., research associate professor in FAU’s College of Medicine, will work to define the mechanisms that govern how cells decide whether to become a mature cell or whether to die.
“This ‘to be or not to be’ decision is at the heart of discovering those cell controls that determine for example how healthy cells become cancer cells and how stem cells become organs,” said Kantorow, who was awarded $1.2 million from the NIH. “Understanding these controls is critical in learning how to make transplantable tissues to cure human disease.”
A poorly understood process is how cells make the initial decision to go from undifferentiated stem cell populations to the beginning stages of growth and maturation. With this new grant, Kantorow and his colleagues will use the eye lens as a model to test this question, since unlike other tissues of the body, the lens is composed of only two cell types – a stem cell population and mature cells that last a lifetime. Because the eye lens grows throughout life, this process of continuous stem cell conversion into mature cell populations can be studied in an ideal system that allows the testing of individual gene functions in isolated cell mechanisms.
“It is important to note that disruption of this process also causes cataract formation, which remains the leading cause of blindness worldwide, despite modern advances in cataract surgery,” said Kantorow. “So, understanding these mechanisms also could lead to therapies to delay or prevent cataract formation.”
The work from this grant will be applicable toward understanding the differentiation, development and disease states of other tissues since the regulatory molecules examined are common to many other tissues.
“We are extremely proud to receive this prestigious grant from the National Institutes of Health,” said Arthur J. Ross, III, M.D., M.B.A., interim dean and professor in FAU’s College of Medicine. “The great work taking place in the Kantorow laboratory combined with a team approach that brings together research expertise and strengths will enable this study to significantly impact our understanding of the mechanisms that regulate critical, but as of yet, not well understood aspects of eye lens development.”
This project is supported by the National Eye Institute of the National Institutes of Health through grant number 1R01EY026478-01.