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Research

THE PROBLEM

The onset/progression of cancers and the inability for many tissues/organs to fully regenerate in human are the biomedical problems at the center of our research efforts. The genetic, molecular and cellular processes that govern these disease and homeostatic events often overlap. In fact, many solid tumors undergo changes that mirror the changes in tissues during natural wound healing events. By understanding what drives cancer and what prevents complete tissue regeneration, we aim to develop novels strategies to diagnose/treat malignancies and degenerative disorders.

THE APPROACH

Jonathan Kelber trained as a doctoral student under Wylie Vale at the Salk Institute where he made important contributions to understanding how TGFbeta signaling is regulated at the surface of tumor and stem cells. Several years later, as a postdoctoral fellow at UCSD with Richard Klemke, he discovered a novel kinase called PEAK1 that regulates the cytoskeleton and cancer progression.  His laboratory at CSUN has recently made seminal discoveries linking the role of PEAK1 upregulation in cancer to dysregulated TGFbeta signaling, enabling TGFbeta to switch from its normal growth suppressive state to one that promotes the systemic spread of human cancers. Current work in this area is focused on understanding how upstream regulators and downstream targets of PEAK1 influence TGFbeta signaling and function in cell and animal models. Additional efforts are focused on how regulators of TGFbeta signaling function during tissue regeneration in model organisms that have the potential to fully regenerate tissue structure and function after injury.