Grace Lee

Accurately Measuring Retrotransposon Expression Levels in Tumorigenesis

Retrotransposons are sections of our DNA that can replicate and insert themselves into our genome to create duplicates and invite mutations. They make up around 40% of our genome, yet their roles in most biological pathways is not yet completely understood. We see a significant derepression of certain retrotransposons when we analyze the expressions levels of retrotransposons in cancer cells. This derepression tells us that they are activated and take part in tumorigenesis, though the precise mechanism is unclear. To begin to understand these retransposons, we must first develop an accurate assay that can detect the expression levels of certain retrotransposons and be able to differentiate from the rest. This assay must also take into account the fact that because retrotransposons inherently amplify themselves in the genome, over time, some of these copies have become non functional. We want to know how much of the functional gene is activated during tumorigenesis so that eventually we may be able to pinpoint and stop the mechanism involved in cancer formation.

Message to Sponsor

I am truly grateful to have been chosen as a SURF/Rose Hills Experience Scholar. Thanks to the generous donors of the Rose Hills Foundation, I will be able to spend my summer conducting important research and being able to devote all my time to it without distraction. I will take the skills I learn this summer beyond school and graduation. I would like to take this time to also thank my mentors Lin He and Bin Xue, and the rest of the He Lab where I learned everything I know now.
  • Major: Bioengineering
  • Sponsor: SURF Rose Hills fellow
  • Mentor: Lin He, Molecular and Cell Biology