Monday, November 8, 2010

Researchers in Lori Wallrath's laboratory are convinced that the nucleus is the control center for the cell. Her lab is currently focused on studying muscular dystrophy and breast cancer. Wallrath, professor of biochemistry and faculty member in the Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Molecular and Cellular Biology, and her fellow lab members have generated a fruit fly model of Emery-Dreifuss muscular dystrophy (EDMD), which affects 1 in 100,000 people.  This model allows for genetic studies and drug screens to identify potential therapies.

Lori Wallrath

In addition, the Wallrath lab is studying proteins that package the DNA within the nucleus, which is providing an explanation for why breast cancer cells spread to specific sites in the body. "Collectively, research in the Wallrath lab makes important connections between activities in the nucleus and human disease," Wallrath said.

Wallrath credits the UI for helping shape the direction of research in her lab. "Our fruit fly model of EDMD has been enhanced through collaborations with Peter Nagy (formerly of pathology), Steven Moore (pathology) and Katherine Matthews (pediatrics), clinicians who work directly with EDMD patients," Wallrath said. "Our breast cancer project grew out of a fruitful collaboration with Dawn Kirschmann, a senior scientist in the lab of Mary Hendrix (former head of anatomy and cell biology)."

The fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster provides a model system for studies in the Wallrath laboratory. The fly offers a wealth of genetic and genomic tools for analyses of chromatin packaging, gene expression and modeling human diseases, such as Emery-Dreifuss muscular dystrophy. In many cases, molecular defects and biological pathways altered in human disease were first identified in Drosophila.