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Defining the Mechanistic Connections Between Injury, Regeneration, and Cancer

Defining the Mechanistic Connections Between Injury, Regeneration, and Cancer


Hao Zhu, MD
Assistant Professor, Pediatrics
University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center
Dallas, Texas


In mammals, there is a strong association of cancer with chronic damage to the skin, intestine, and liver. The connection is complicated, however, because the regenerative abilities of these organs serve to protect tissue integrity, reduce inflammation, and can instead resist cancer formation during injury. Dr. Zhu’s work focuses on a gene called Arid1a, which has been associated with cancer. Dr. Zhu has found that genetic deletion of Arid1a profoundly increases the healing capacity of the liver after injury without increased cancer. Indeed, deletion of this gene actually protects the laboratory mice against liver cancer. This proposal aims to understand the relationship between injury, regeneration, and cancer and more specifically to investigate Arid1a, and its related biological pathways, as new therapeutic targets in tissue repair and cancer. The hypothesis is that blocking regeneration suppressing genes like Arid1a will promote tissue regeneration and prevent or delay carcinogenesis. Using laboratory mice that are engineered to lack the Arid1a gene, Dr. Zhu’s lab will examine whether changing regenerative capability of injured livers and colons, influences cancer formation. They will investigate how a regenerating tissue influences nearby tumor cells in tissue. Lastly, they will perform a genetic screen in their laboratory mice to identify factors that influence Arid1a-associated tissue regeneration and determine how Arid1a may be connected with cancer.

Updated: May 2016