The primary interests of my laboratory are to explore the molecular and cellular mechanisms that control the development of embryonic tissues/organs, the homeostasis of adult epithelial tissues, and initiation and progression of cancer. We are particularly interested in the roles of tumor suppressors p53, OVCA1 (Ovarian Cancer Gene 1), PTEN (phosphatase and tensin homolog deleted on chromosome 10) and APC (Adenomatous polyposis coli) in different cancers. To address the roles of these tumor suppressors, we create and develop different mouse genetic resources exhibiting inducible Cre recombinase in different epithelial lineages. Using genetic, biochemical and pharmacological dissection based on our established mouse models, the downstream signaling circuits that act as the key mediators during cancer progression are currently being characterized. Our research outcomes may help us to identify genes or therapeutic targets that block the carcinogenic process.
In addition, we have focused on the development of the forebrain, the heart, the thymus and the reproductive tracts in the mouse. Using different genetic modified mice, the abnormal phenotypes occurred in the mutant mice are often to be the entry points for us to explore potential mechanisms resulting in developmental defects during mammalian organogenesis.
Historically, in addition to mice, rats have been used extensively as experimental animals for biomedical research. However, compared to the very large number of genetically modified mice, there are very few mutant rats due to technology limitations. Currently, my laboratory collaborates with Dr. Richard Behringer at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center who has established a piggyBac-mediated gene-trap mutagenesis system to create a large collection of mutant rats (Furushima et al., 2012, Genetics). The primary goal of this collaborative project is to accelerate and extend the generation of mutant rats, which may enable us to discover novel biological function of the mutated genes and to develop potential disease models in rats.