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UNC-Chapel Hill

Education and Training

St. Xavier’s College, BS, 1986
Carnegie Mellon University, PhD, 1994
Washington University, Postdoctoral, 1994-2000

Areas of Interest

We are interested in exploring how cells regulate their survival and death. How does a cell decide whether to survive and cope, or trigger apoptosis in response to different stimuli? If the apoptotic pathway is activated, what is its mechanism and how is it regulated?

Cell death by apoptosis occurs extensively during development and is seen in many pathological conditions such as after stroke or in neurodegenerative diseases. In contrast, the inability of cells to undergo apoptosis is a fundamental hallmark of cancers. Therefore, understanding the mechanisms by which different cells regulate apoptosis has significant therapeutic implications.

We are particularly interested in identifying the unique ways in which different cells control apoptosis. For example, apoptosis is highly restricted in postmitotic cells such as neurons- which is beneficial for their long-term survival. In contrast, embryonic stem cells are primed to undergo rapid apoptosis in response to DNA damage- an ability that permits for the rapid elimination of damaged cells during embryonic development.

Thus, we focus on studying how cell survival and death is regulated in neurons, stem cells and cancer cells in cell culture as well as in mouse models of neurodegeneration, cancer, and aging.

Some Questions Currently Under Investigation:

What are the mechanisms that allow neurons to survive long-term?

How does a neuron degenerate its axons yet protect the soma?

How is apoptosis dynamically controlled during embryonic stem cell differentiation?

Can we utilize the survival mechanisms engaged by the healthy brain to prevent neurodegeneration?

Can the differences between mitotic cells and neurons be utilized to selectively kill brain tumor cells while sparing neurons?

Deshmukh, Mohanish