Research Roundup: December 2020

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Research Roundup: December 2020

Here are summaries of a selection of the papers published by GCB faculty in December 2020:


Doug Marchuk part of a team that investigated the effect of propranolol on the embryonic zebrafish multi-cavernous malformation and on lesion burden and hemorrhage in two murine chronic cerebral cavernous malformation models. Read more

Greg Wray part of a team that identified a pathogenic variant that may serve as a basis for the identification of previously unknown mechanisms of long QT syndrome with broader implications for cardiac electrophysiology. Read more

Sandeep dave part of a team reporting on results of a phase 1 dose-escalation study of belinostat and bortezomib in adult patients with acute leukemia or MDS or CML with blast crisis. Read more

Gut-Brain Axis

John Rawls and team discovered that the bacteria Edwardsiella tarda activate enteroendocrine cells through the receptor transient receptor potential ankyrin A1 and increase intestinal motility. These results establish a molecular pathway by which enteroendocrine cells regulate enteric and vagal neuronal pathways in response to microbial signals. Read more

New Methods

Greg Crawford and Tim Reddy were part of an international team that generated transcriptome, epigenome, open chromatin and chromatin interaction annotations of cells that play critical roles in promoting successful pregnancy, interfacing with fetal cells throughout pregnancy, and the timing of birth. The team then built a computational framework integrating these annotations with the results of a large GWAS of gestational duration to facilitate discovery of preterm birth genes. Read more

Charlie Gersbach, Tim Reddy and team created a new way to turn stem cells into a desired cell type by mastering the language of gene regulatory networks. Their work focused on creating mature neuronal cells, but the method can be used on any cell type. Read more

Ashley Chi was part of team that developed a method for culturing fusion positive rhabdomyosarcoma cells as rhabdospheres. This method provides a novel, practical tool to support research into fustion positive rhabdomyosarcoma stemness and chemoresistance signaling mechanisms. Read more


In a review published in Genetics, Ryan Baugh, along with Patrick Hu of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, provide a comprehensive overview of starvation responses throughout the C. elegans life cycle. Read more

Related News

A diagram of the species of bacteria from an individual patient that are more likely to be found with tumor samples (blue) or normal tissue samples (yellow). The layout of the diagram shows the bacterial family tree, with node sizes proportional to the number of times a given bacterial group is observed. This specific diagram “rediscovers” that Fusobacterium species are strongly enriched in colorectal cancer and offers the new insight that Campylobacter species are also associated with the disease.

The Cancer Microbiome Reveals Which Bacteria Live in Tumors

Researchers clean up data to identify the bugs better

By Ken Kingery

Claire Engstrom

Claire Engstrom, a Student Researcher Working to Treat Duchenne’s Muscular Dystrophy by Optimizing CRISPR-cas9

Meet Claire Engstrom, a Senior from Pasadena California. Claire is a Biology major who works in the Gersbach Lab at Duke.
Figure Caption: CRISPR-based activation of gene networks implicated in human stem cells becoming neuronal cells led to the generation of cells with neuronal shapes and markers (left) and enhanced function and electrophysiological properties, including producing more action potentials more frequently (right).

It’s time to grow up

Stem cells have the potential to turn into any cell type, which makes them an incredibly powerful tool for disease modeling and regenerative medicine.