Our lab studies cancer-associated microRNAs (miRNAs). MiRNAs constitute a family of small non-coding RNAs that modulate the expression of protein coding genes in a sequence-specific manner. They are found in all bilateria and account for a significant fraction of vertebrate genes. The human genome, for example, contains over five hundred miRNAs. Despite the intense scrutiny they have recently received, the exact biological function of most miRNAs is still largely unknown.
A small, but relevant, number of human miRNAs have been recently shown to participate in the pathogenesis of human cancers, acting as oncogenes or as tumor suppressor genes, or affecting the metastatic process. The goals of our lab are to investigate the biology of this subclass of miRNAs, understand their normal functions in development and tumorigenesis, and determine whether they can be used as effective novel anticancer targets.
In our quest, we are greatly helped by our fellow mammal, the laboratory mouse. By introducing targeted mutations in the mouse genome we are able to study the consequences of inactivating or ectopically expressing individual miRNAs or even entire families of miRNAs. Our recent work on Oncomir-1, arguably the most famous among the oncogenic miRNAs, well illustrates the power of this approach (Ventura et al. Cell 2008, Mu et al. Genes Dev 2009, De Pontual et al., Nature Genet 2011). If you want to join our efforts to understand and defeat cancer, apply to one of the available positions in our lab. For more information on our current projects, please follow this link.