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Tackling diseases by studying genome organization

Five-year research project is funded by National Institutes of Health

October 23, 2019
Author: Iqbal Pittalwala
October 23, 2019

Wenxiu Ma, an assistant professor of statistics, has received a five-year grant of about $1.8 million from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, or NIGMS, for a project titled, “Computational modeling of spatial genome organization and gene regulation.”

The 3D organization of the genome plays an essential role in genome stability, gene regulation, and many diseases, including cancer; alterations in spatial genome organization are associated with diseases. Ma will investigate higher-order chromatin organization using high-throughput chromatin conformation capture, or Hi-C, data.

Wenxiu Ma
Wenxiu Ma

Hi-C data analyses and 3D genome research are still in their early stage and face several challenges. Chromatin, the material that makes up a chromosome, is a complex of DNA and protein found in eukaryotic cells.

“Despite the rapidly accumulating resources for investigating 3D genome organization, our understanding of the regulatory mechanisms and functions of the genome organization remain largely incomplete,” Ma said. “My long-term research goal is to develop innovative computational and statistical methods to uncover the interplay between 3D genome structure and its function in gene regulation and disease.”

Ma will be joined in the research her graduate students and postdoctoral fellows.

The grant is part of the NIGMS’s Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award for Early Stage Investigators program, which is designed to encourage talented and promising young scientists to explore creative ideas and important new research directions by providing them greater funding stability and flexibility.