Investigating noncoding RNA networks in hematopoiesis

The genetic material of cells is DNA. The popular notion in biology for a long time was that DNA makes RNA which in turn makes proteins. But over the past two decades, research has shown that not all types of RNA are converted to protein. These RNAs which do not make (or do not code for) proteins are called noncoding RNAs. Long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs) belong to one of the classes of noncoding RNAs. Based on various studies, we know that lncRNAs are crucial during different biological contexts including embryonic development as well as disease. The importance of lncRNAs in blood stem cells and blood cancer is not yet studied in detail. We will study how lncRNAs can help blood stem cells to either remain as stem cells (maintain stemness) or convert into different blood cell types (differentiate) and how they control the blood stem cells from forming cancer.

One of the very recently studied modes of action for lncRNAs is the binding of long noncoding RNAs to other class of noncoding RNAs called microRNAs and blocking the action of microRNAs. By using several techniques, we will systematically decipher lncRNAs acting by the microRNA mechanism to the blood stem cells in maintaining stemness or differentiation. The knowledge from this project will improve our understanding of the biology of blood stem cells and can be helpful in future for treatment of disorders of the blood system, bone marrow failure and cancer.