The group focuses on Viral Genomics, animal models, and translational studies of Kaposi sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) and exosomes. Exosomes are small, virus-like particles that transmit the oncogenic micro RNAs of KSHV.
The group works in three areas: viral genomics pertaining to any virus family: herpesviruses, West Nile virus, SARS-CoV-2, cancers caused by Kaposi Sarcoma-associated herpesviruses, and the fundamental biology of exosomes.
We established the UNC Vironomics core (http://www.med.unc.edu/vironomics) to apply cutting-edge genomic technologies, such as next-generation sequencing to viral genomes and virus gene expression. This includes single-cell measurements, and it utilizes samples from clinical trials in the U.S., South Africa, and Malawi.
Approximately 1/4 of all human cancers are of viral origin or require viral infection as an essential cofactor. The main goal of our research is to understand cancers that are caused by Kaposi sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV). In the U.S., KS is seen in the context of HIV or in transplant patients. In Sub-Saharan Africa, KS is the most common cancer in males and is also seen in children. We have developed transgenic mice, which express the viral proteins and micro RNAs.
Exosomes are a new and exciting area of research in the lab. Exosomes are on 50-120 nm particles, which like viruses, carry proteins and miRNAs to neighboring cells and are intricately linked to viral pathogenesis.
McNamara RP, Caro-Vegas C, Landis JT, Moorad R, Pluta LJ, Eason AB, Thompson C, Bailey A, Villamor FCS, Lange PT, Wong JP, Seltzer T, Seltzer J, Zhou Y, Vahrson W, Juarez A, Meyo JO, Calabre T, Broussard G, Rivera-Soto R, Chappell DL, Baric RS, Damania B, Miller MB, Dittmer DP. High-Density Amplicon Sequencing Identifies Community Spread and Ongoing Evolution of SARS-CoV-2 in the Southern United States. Cell Rep. 2020 Nov 3;33(5):108352.
McNamara RP, Chugh PE, Bailey A, Costantini LM, Ma Z, Bigi R, Cheves A, Eason AB, Landis JT, Host KM, Xiong J, Griffith JD, Damania B, Dittmer DP. Extracellular vesicles from Kaposi Sarcoma-associated herpesvirus lymphoma induce long-term endothelial cell reprogramming. PLoS Pathog. 2019 Feb 4;15(2): e1007536.
Bigi R, Landis JT, An H, Caro-Vegas C, Raab-Traub N, Dittmer DP. Epstein-Barr virus enhances genome maintenance of Kaposi sarcoma-associated herpesvirus. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2018 Nov 27;115(48): E11379-E11387.
Freie Universität Berlin
Standford University School of Medicine
University of California San Francisco (UCSF)