Thesis: Differential microRNA expression and the role of the Yes-associated protein (YAP) in the transformation of embryonic liver progenitor cells and the development of hepatocellular carcinoma.
My research is focused on the characterization of liver progenitor cells (LPCs), in particular differences in the microRNA expression profile between non-transformed and transformed LPCs and the role that the Yes-associated protein, a bonafide oncogene for which constitutive overexpression in the liver has been shown to lead to HCC in mice, and the role that these may play in the transformation of LPCs and the development of HCC.
Why my research is important
Hepatocelluar carcinoma (HCC) is the fifth most common cancer, and the third leading cause of cancer related death worldwide. Whilst liver transplant offers patients the best chance of survival, a shortage of donor livers has necessitated the search for alternative treatment options, such as cell based therapies, for which liver progenitor cells are an attractive candidate.
However, these cells have been shown to transform in culture, and there is increasing evidence to suggest that hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) might arise from these cells in vivo. By performing detailed characterization of these cells we may better understand the process by which these cells transform, and be able to prevent it.