• Powered by Mitochondria

“If I have a thousand ideas and only one turns out to be good, I am satisfied” ― Alfred Nobel

With the exception of peripheral red blood cells, mitochondria are present in all eukaroytic cells in varying numbers, from hundreds to thousands. Mitochondria perform multiple cellular functions and implicated in many diseases. The goal of our laboratory is to understand the role of mitochondria in aging and aging associated diseases such as cancer. We employ the unicellular eukaryote Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast, mouse, and mammalian cell culture systems to study these processes. Our approach uses both molecular and genetic methods in concert: molecular assays are used to detect and characterize genes of interest and in vivo function of the proteins is assessed by genetic analysis. Currently, ongoing projects include but not limited to:

  • Intra, extra and intercellular mitochondrial communication: Mitochondria are signaling organelles, capable of mediating bidirectional intracellular information transfer: anterograde (from the nucleus-to-mitochondria) and retrograde (from mitochondria-to-nucleus). The evidence is building that the role of mitochondria extends to intercellular communication as well. We defined these characteristic function of mitochondria as “momiome” to include mobile mitochondria and the mitochondrial genome. We have developed model systems to investigate “momiome” in yeast, human cells, and whole animal. We are investigating the mechanisms and pathways involved and exploring its role in cancer.
  • Unfolding and undoing aging and aging associated diseases: We have created a mouse whose age can be manipulated at will--made older, then younger again. This mouse model provides an unprecedented opportunity for understanding tissue specific aging and mitigating aging associated diseases. We are currently developing strategies to prevent, slow and treat skin wrinkles and hair loss in mice and translating it into humans.
  • Mitochondria in cancer, cancer disparities and human diversity : The mitochondrial genome, which is inherited only through the mother, serves as a determinant of ethnicity. In ethnic populations, differences in mitochondrial function may alter the cross talk between mitochondria and the nucleus at epigenetic and genetic levels, which can contribute to cancer health disparities. We are targeting mitochondrial determinants and mitochondria-to-nucleus retrograde signaling to develop a promising strategy for the development of cancer therapy to address cancer disparities in African Americans.