Commentary – Nature SMB – Chromatin engineering offers an opportunity to advance epigenetic cancer therapy
Chromatin engineering offers an opportunity to advance epigenetic cancer therapy
Baskin NL, Haynes KA. (2019) Nature Struct Mol Biol. doi: 10.1038/s41594-019-0299-6
After scientists had discovered that DNA damage is linked to cancer, further research revealed an additional culprit: the misregulation of normal, undamaged genes. DNA folding is a highly regulated process in which a DNA-RNA-protein network called chromatin ensures that genes are switched on and off in the appropriate time and place. In cancer, this process often becomes misregulated to the advantage of the cancer cell, allowing cancer cells to grow unchecked, evade anti-cancer drugs, and generate new tumors. This discovery has enabled scientists to develop a new class of cancer treatment called epigenetic therapy, which targets misregulated chromatin and therefore works differently at the molecular level compared to more traditional chemotherapies (e.g. cisplatin). In our commentary we discuss how protein engineering could be used to further advance epigenetic therapy so that it is more effective against difficult-to-treat cancers.
Dr. Haynes will lead a project to discover the biochemical rules that determine how genes in cancer cells respond to engineered chromatin proteins. Her team’s two-year project “Predictable control of gene regulation through epigenetic engineering” has just received an R21 grant from the National Institute of Health (NIH) National cancer Institute (NCI). Dr. Haynes (Emory) and Dr. Chris Plaisier (collaborator, Arizona State University) will bring together expertise in chromatin engineering with computational biology to develop a new microarray platform to design synthetic chromatin proteins, and to develop a computer algorithm to predict whether these proteins will have a therapeutic effect in cancer cells.
Dr. Haynes has been invited to present her work at the 3rd annual International Conference on CRISPR Technologies in Wurzburg, Germany on September 16 – 18, 2019. She will give a talk titled “Inhibition and Recovery of CRISPR/spCas9 Activity at Closed Chromatin in a Human Cell Line.”
Dr. Haynes has been invited to serve as a session chair at the 3rd annual Epigenetics and Bioengineering conference (EpiBio) in Barcelona, Spain on September 12 – 14, 2019. She will chair a session on “Writing Epigenetic Modifications” which includes five exciting presentations on altering features within chromatin to control gene regulation.
James Harrison Priode has just joined the Haynes lab this August as a Research Specialist I. He earned his B.S. in Biochemistry at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, NC. He was a research technician at NCSU as well as at Duke University. Welcome to the Haynes lab, Harrison!
Dr. Haynes has been invited to give a lecture at the CSHL Synthetic Biology Summer Course at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York. The course is a two-week hands-on wet bench and research experience and lecture series on synthetic biology techniques and applications, co-founded by Haynes and a team of other early career scientists in 2013. She will return to the course this year as an invited speaker to present “Chromatin epigenetic engineering in triple negative breast cancer” on Tuesday, July 23, 2019.
Dr. Haynes has been invited to present her research at the Synthetic Biology, Engineering, Evolution & Design conference (6/23 – 6/27/2019) in New York, NY. She will present “Epigenetic engineering in triple negative breast cancer” on Wednesday, June 26, 2019.