Knoepfler Lab at UC Davis School of Medicine conducts research on cancer and stem cells with emphasis on chromatin and epigenetics. The lab receives funding from organizations that include the National Institutes of Health and California Institute for Regenerative Medicine. Its namesake, Dr. Paul Knoepfler, was named in 2013 among the top 50 most influential people in the field of stem cell research and technology.
Focus on Chromatin and Epigenetics
Chromatin is a complex of large molecules found in cells. On top of providing overall DNA protection, chromatin has other primary functions. One, it is responsible for packaging DNA into smaller components that can fit in a cell. Two, it permits cellular division or mitosis by reinforcing DNA molecules. And last, it controls replication of DNA molecules and gene expression.
All in all, chromatin is important for maintaining the integrity of the cells throughout their lifetime. Since application of stem cell technology requires that the stem cell pool meets ideal internal conditions, it’s just natural that the breakdown of chromatin regulators must be prevented, if not minimized at the very least. With that in mind, research and understanding of chromatin mechanisms is a crucial aspect in stem cell technology.
Meanwhile, Knoepfler researchers are also highly interested in epigenetics or the study of cellular reactions and the factors that affect DNA, particularly factors that influence how cells read genetic variations. Stem cells, epigenetics, and cancer are all closely associated. Genes are coded in the genome, but nothing actually happens without the epigenome which is made up mainly of histone variations and DNA methylation. By putting the spotlight on epigenetics, scientists are able to better understand how the epigenetic state (which genes are on or off) of each cell behaves or misbehaves, as in the case of cancer. [Read more…]