Context is everything. That is as true for cells as it is for sentences. CRI’s latest Young Philanthropist (YP) Fellow, Jing-Ping Hsin, Ph.D., will be testing the role of context on gene expression in cancer.
Dr. Hsin is interested in a piece of molecular machinery called microRNA-155, which controls the expression of genes. His hypothesis is that the function of this microRNA depends on the particular cell—the context—it resides in. He will measure the function of microRNA-155 in immune cells and cancer cells with an idea that, in cancer, microRNA-155 might regulate a distinct set of target genes.
Dr. Hsin’s advisor, Alexander Rudensky, Ph.D., called this project “highly relevant to cancer,” and thinks that Dr. Hsin has the skills and talent to make a major contribution.
While each cell in the human body contains the same set of genes, different sets of genes are “switched on” in different cell types. When a gene is turned on, or expressed, the instructions found within it are used to assemble a protein. It is a cell’s particular complement of proteins that establishes its identity and function.
MicroRNAs are small strands of RNA that can repress gene expression. Hsin’s focus of study, microRNA-155, is important for the development of T cells and B cells of the immune system, and has also been implicated in the development of many cancers—including and especially lymphoma, but also breast and lung cancer.
Lymphoma kills approximately 20,170 people a year. There are two main types: Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), with NHL being the much more common type. Dr. Hsin’s work has the potential to greatly impact the way this type of cancer is understood and treated.
Before turning to postdoctoral studies, Dr. Hsin pursued his graduate work at Columbia University in NYC, where he studied RNA polymerase under the mentorship of James Manley, Ph.D. His thesis research, which was published in the prestigious journal Science, revealed a new phosphorylation site on RNA polymerase II.
Dr. Hsin is originally from Taiwan. As an undergraduate, he studied biology and education at National Changhua University of Education. When Dr. Hsin has free time, he likes to go swimming, practice tae kwon do, and do outdoor activities such as mountain hiking. He is also a classical music fan.