My lab investigates the role of proteins and non-coding RNAs in the initiation of multiple myeloma (MM), with the goal of designing new therapeutic strategies for MM. MM is a cancer characterized by proliferation of plasma cell colonies in the bone marrow. Increasingly, evidence shows that a super family of small (20~24 nt) non-coding RNAs, termed microRNAs (miRNAs), are involved in cell differentiation, proliferation, and apoptosis by targeting the 3’UTR of mRNAs of protein-coding genes, and therefore are involved in cancer pathogenesis, including MM. Currently, my research group is working on four projects related to this topic:
- We are analyzing the role of miR-222-221 in MM initiation and progression using a genetically engineered mouse model and mouse model of human MM dissemination.
- We are functionally identifying the key downstream protein targets of miRNAs related to MM progression.
- We are identifying and characterizing new miRNAs related to MM initiation, progression, and drug resistance.
- We are developing a mouse model that recapitulates human MM for preclinical studies.
The long-term goal of the Zhao lab is to test novel microRNAs as potential diagnostic or prognostic markers and as therapeutic tools and targets to ultimately translate the knowledge gained to improved MM treatments.