The goal of my lab is to study the development of age-related tumors that arise from defects in DNA repair. To accomplish this goal, we use Drosophila melanogaster (fruit flies) as a model organism and use techniques in genetics, cell biology, and toxicology. There are two main areas of research that my lab is currently pursuing:
- The role of DNA repair mechanisms in aging: As cells age, they accumulate DNA damage in the form of mutations, lesions, and breaks in DNA. Double strand breaks can be repaired by one of two main mechanisms: homologous recombination, which is generally believed to be error-free, and non-homologous end-joining, which may lead to imprecise repair and mutations. I’m interesting in investigating the “choice” between error-free and error-prone DNA repair and how this decision may change during aging.
- Cellular interactions in tumorigenesis: As cells age, they can accumulate mutations through endogenous methods, such as waste products and reactive oxygen species from cellular metabolism, as well as exogenous methods, such as exposure to chemicals and UV light. Depending on the location and frequency of these mutations, cells may become cancerous. These cells may also emit signals that influence the cells around them. These signals contribute to a cellular environment that may promote cancer. Because of their well-defined cell types and developmental signaling, we can use the ovaries and testes of Drosophila aging mutants to investigate these mechanisms.
Other research interests: physiological responses to environmental toxins, and stem cell differentiation.