Delving into the origins of disease
Understanding how and why diseases form is the foundation of finding treatments and cures for them. The Johns Hopkins All Children‘s Institute for Fundamental Biomedical Research uses basic science to discover what leads to the development of diseases and those discoveries inspire further research to not just treat but to prevent diseases in the future.
The institute, led by Director Timothy Osborne, Ph.D., acts as a hub, collaborating with researchers across all Johns Hopkins All Children’s institutes and departments and with colleagues on Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine campuses in Baltimore, Maryland.
With Co-Director Laszlo Nagy, M.D., Ph.D., the institute is developing two new centers—the Johns Hopkins Center for Metabolic Origins of Disease and the Center for RNA Biology at Johns Hopkins All Children’s.
Center for Metabolic Origins of Disease
The Johns Hopkins Center for Metabolic Origins of Disease will study common diseases such as obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular complications at a fundamental science level. Our researchers will analyze the genomic and epigenetic regulatory mechanisms responsible for keeping the body's internal systems stable and how those mechanisms become altered in cases that lead to disease.
From Albert Lehninger’s studies of mitochondrial metabolism to Peter Pedersen’s work in bioenergetics and more, Johns Hopkins has built a distinguished legacy of discovery in the field of metabolism and systems biology.
This Center, led by Dr. Nagy serving as its associate director, will focus on how signaling networks and gene regulation can disrupt metabolism, leading to increased risk for disease. We seek to understand how the extra- and intracellular lipid environment contributes to cellular development and differentiation and what impact that has on the immune system. Advances in these areas and our collaboration with translational and clinical researchers throughout Johns Hopkins Medicine can lead to breakthrough preventive strategies and therapies that can have an impact from childhood through entire lifetimes.
In our studies, we will evaluate the entire genome, seeking to identify key changes related to a particular disease—and reliable biomarkers we can use to monitor that disease. We believe this will lead to improved diagnoses, monitoring of disease progression and improved evaluation of therapeutic effectiveness.
Center for RNA Biology
The Center for RNA Biology will seek advancement in the study of ribonucleic acids (RNA) at the molecular level and how they impact disease and therapy, particularly related to aggressive forms of cancer. Ranjan Perera, Ph.D., a national leader in the field, is director of the center.
Dr. Perera will develop the center to focus on abnormal patterns of regulation of certain non-coding RNA (ncRNA) and microRNA (mRNA) genes and how they determine the aggressiveness of types of cancer. The goal is earlier detection and improved treatments for aggressive forms of cancer. The center hopes to discover new approaches to investigating cancers by considering whether epigenetic processes might be the important underlying molecular mechanism behind them.
Recently, Ranjan J. Perera, Ph.D., was awarded a five-year National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant for slightly over $2 million. It is the first Research Project grant — known as an R01 — Johns Hopkins All Children's has received to study pediatric cancer research. R01 NIH grants are highly sought after. Only 10% of R01 grant applications are funded. It takes a great deal of advance work to receive one.
The finding eventually will apply to treatments for pediatric cancers.
Interventions to prevent autoimmune reactions causing Type 1 Diabetes may be closer with the better knowledge of an “adhesion molecule” called CADM1.
New research led by Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center investigators shows the possibility of identifying the presence of an aggressive brain tumor in children by studying their cerebrospinal fluid. Ranjan Perera, Ph.D., senior study author and director of the Center for RNA Biology at Johns Hopkins All Children’s, talks about the impact of the study.
Biochemist Crystal Young-Erdos, Ph.D., brings specialized RNA expertise to an important study.