In the News

Sept. 23, 2015 — A team of scientists at the Children’s Research Institute at UT Southwestern (CRI) has become the first to use a tissue-clearing technique to localize a rare stem cell population, in the process cracking open a black box containing detailed information about where blood-forming stem cells are located and how they are maintained.

The findings, published in Nature, provide a significant advance toward understanding the microenvironment in which stem cells reside within the bone marrow.

Watch the video below, and read the news release.

Aug. 18, 2015 — Le Qi, a Ph.D. student researcher at the Children’s Medical Center Research Institute at UT Southwestern (CRI), has been selected as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute International Student Research Fellow. Qi, from China, is one of only 45 international students from 18 countries chosen to receive a fellowship.

Qi is completing his Ph.D. studies in the Hamon Laboratory for Stem Cell and Cancer Biology under the direction of Dr. Sean Morrison, Director of CRI and an HHMI Investigator. Dr. Morrison is originally from Canada, and was selected as an HHMI International Predoctoral Fellow when he was completing his Ph.D. at Stanford University.

“It feels like an opportunity to give back a little by now mentoring one of these students in my lab,” said Dr. Morrison. “These are all students who have an opportunity to do something special. The fellowships fill a major need, while also supporting some of the strongest and most highly selected students in the country.”

Read the news release.

June 15, 2015 — Dr. Sean Morrison, Director of the Children’s Medical Center Research Institute at UT Southwestern, has been announced as the incoming president of the International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR). The ISSCR represents nearly 4,000 stem cell researchers in 55 countries, promoting global collaboration among the world’s most prominent stem cell scientists and physicians. Read more about Dr. Morrison’s upcoming presidential term.

March 27, 2015 — Dr. Sean Morrison, Director of the Children’s Medical Center Research Institute at UT Southwestern, is trying to cure cancer, and he’s pursuing that goal with some of the best early-career scientists in the world in a setting that feels like a tech startup company. Read more in a profile of Dr. Morrison and the institute in D CEO magazine.

Jan. 15, 2015 — The Children’s Medical Center Research Institute at UT Southwestern (CRI) recently recruited Dr. Jian Xu to become the institute’s fifth faculty member and principal investigator. Dr. Xu will lead CRI’s investigations of disease-associated genes and gene networks in blood cell development and blood disorders such as childhood leukemia. Read about Dr. Xu’s appointment at CRI.

Dec. 10, 2014 — According to National Cancer Institute statistics, by the end of this year more than 16,000 children under the age of 19 will have been diagnosed with cancer. Although cancer in children is rare and not well understood, it is the leading cause of disease-related death among children and teenagers. But the outlook is improving thanks to cutting edge research at the genetic level. That research could be medicine’s next big thing.

Dr. Hao Zhu, an Assistant Professor at the Children’s Medical Center Research Institute at UT Southwestern and a CPRIT Scholar in Cancer Research, has pinpointed a gene that contributes to childhood cancers like neuroblastoma, Wilms tumor and liver cancer.

Nov. 24, 2014 — Dr. Hao Zhu, an Assistant Professor at the Children’s Medical Center Research Institute at UT Southwestern, has been awarded a $1.35 million grant from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) for research related to the development of effective therapies for chronic liver disease and liver cancer.

Liver cancer, which is almost always preceded by cirrhosis, is a significant cause of cancer-related death worldwide. In the United States, Texas has the second highest incidence rate of liver cancer.

“We recently identified a genetic pathway known as the SWI/SNF chromatin-remodeling pathway that when suppressed, results in better liver regeneration and the potential for preventing liver cancer,” said Dr. Zhu, who is also a CPRIT Scholar in Cancer Research. “With the help of this generous funding support, we will use mouse models to validate the pathway as a target in chronic liver disease and liver cancer, and then work to develop novel compounds for the simultaneous treatment of cirrhosis and cancer in the liver.”

Nov. 3, 2014 — Scientists at the Children’s Medical Center Research Institute at UT Southwestern (CRI) have identified a metabolic pathway that allows cancer cells to survive periods of stress brought on by blocking the major pathway by which cells produce energy.

Most cells survive and grow by oxidizing glucose. This pathway involves first converting glucose into a smaller molecule called pyruvate, then importing the pyruvate into the mitochondria where it supplies pathways that provide energy and building blocks for growth.

CRI researchers led by Dr. Ralph DeBerardinis sought to understand whether transfer of pyruvate into the mitochondria is required for cancer cell survival and growth. They determined that although blocking pyruvate entry did, as expected, compromise the energy state of the cell, it simultaneously activated a second pathway fueled by the amino acid glutamine.

This new pathway provided enough flow of mitochondrial metabolism that cancer cells were able to survive and, to some extent, continue to grow. The glutamine-dependent pathway involved activation of an enzyme, glutamate dehydrogenase, which was normally suppressed in cells importing pyruvate into the mitochondria.

The CRI research team used models of brain and lung cancer cell growth to demonstrate that blocking either mitochondrial pyruvate import or glutamate dehydrogenase alone was fairly well tolerated. However, blocking both pathways rapidly led to cancer cell death.

Similarly, treating mice with inhibitors of both activities simultaneously — but not either one alone — significantly reduced tumor growth. Because many solid tumors, like those in the brain and lung, likely contain regions in which access to glucose or pyruvate is compromised, the new glutamine-dependent pathway may provide a survival mechanism to avoid tumor cell starvation. If so, then blocking glutamate dehydrogenase or other steps in the pathway may provide a therapeutic benefit.

Read the research paper as well as a commentary published in Molecular Cell.

Oct. 17, 2014 — Children’s Medical Center Research Institute at UT Southwestern has been named by the Dallas Regional Chamber as a 2014 Innovation Catalyst award recipient, given annually to a company or institution that strengthens the region’s capacity for innovation.

Read the news release.

Oct. 9, 2014 — Researchers are just now beginning to appreciate the ways in which differences in protein synthesis among mammalian somatic cells are necessary for tissue development and homeostasis, as new approaches are making it possible to more generally compare protein synthesis and its regulation among different kinds of cells.

Dr. Sean Morrison, Director of the Children’s Medical Center Research Institute at UT Southwestern, is senior author of a review of research that focuses on differences in protein synthesis, protein stability, and ribosome assembly among cells that are critical for tissue development and homeostasis.

The mechanisms that underlie these differences are only beginning to be clarified, but they are already providing fundamental new insights into development, tissue regeneration, and how these processes go wrong in degenerative diseases and cancer.

Read the research review published in Cell.