Wendong Huang, Ph.D. Research

Metabolic regulation, cancer and aging
We are interested in the molecular link between metabolism, cancer and aging. One particular direction is the functional studies of a group of nuclear receptors. Nuclear receptors are a special group of transcriptional factors that are activated by their cognate ligands. A new branch of nuclear receptors was recently identified to play pivotal roles in regulating different metabolic pathways. These nuclear receptors work as sensors of metabolic signals and regulate the expression of essential genes in different pathways. Studies in this area have generated significant impact in many human diseases such as diabetes, obesity, cancer and aging. A second approach is focused on identification and characterization of novel signaling pathways in metabolism and cancer through both genetic and epigenetic approaches. We have identified several novel miRNA-mediated pathways in metabolic diseases as well as cancer growth and metastasis. We have generated transgenic mouse models of those miRNAs and their roles in obesity, diabetes and cancer development are being investigated currently. Moreover, we screen and identify novel small chemical compounds to target cancer stem cells. By using the chemicals we have identified, we are also identifying and characterizing novel signaling pathways in cancer stem cells. In summary, taking advantage of both genetically engineered mouse models and molecular pharmacological tools, our long-term goal is to identify novel signaling pathways in metabolism and cancer in order to provide new targets for drug discovery.
The current research projects in my laboratory focus on:
  1. Identification and characterization of physiological signal molecules and pathways by which nuclear receptors regulate metabolism and cancer;
  2. Cancer stem cell, novel signaling pathways and targeting therapy; and
  3. Epigenetic and miRNA mechanisms in diabetes, obesity and cancer.