George Chen — Micro RNA and Tumorgenesis

Interview by Elaine Zhou

Tell me a little about your research.

I’m studying the role of micro RNA 126, or miR126 and how it transactivates other proteins in tumogenesis. Basically, whether it encodes an oncogene, promoting tumor growth, or an anti-oncogene, suppressing tumor growth. We basically inject a virus into mice that are miR126+ and miR126-. We’ve found that mice that are miR126- have much larger tumors, and experience a lot more vessel leakage, which is bad. So we’ve determined that miR126plays a large role in stopping tumor cells from metastasizing into lymph nodes or even into the brain. Humans can also be MiR126+ or miR-, so if we can control its transcription levels, then we have a much higher chance of detecting and treating things like lung cancer or breast cancer.

What do you like about research?

I like how you can actually see tangible results. Some parts of research are very tedious like PCR, or genotyping, or when you’re taking measurements. But when you can measure tumor sizes and see the different results, that’s inspiring. Even if they’re not what you expect, at least you’re getting some types of results that you can use for later experiments.

What do you like about this particular topic or lab?

Everyone in my lab is working on very similar projects so there’s a lot of collaboration. There isn’t really a scripted set of experiments that you have to do. If you have a new idea you can kinda just run with, go into lab and start doing experiments. Everything is changing, and there’s always something to do.