School of Medicine Coronavirus Update:
Read for more details specific to medical students and School of Medicine events.

Cell Biology Research Cluster

Cell Biology Research Cluster (CBRC) - Coordinator, Sandrine Pierre, PhD

Cell biology and molecular signaling are core components in the research of all diseases. The Cell Biology Research Cluster (CBRC) at Marshall consists of faculty that concentrate on the role of molecular signaling and control of gene function in a range of disease processes. Within the CBRC there are three primary research areas. The first area focuses on the regulation of cell function by Na/K ATPase, especially in epithelial cell biology. The epithelia is a barrier tissue that plays a major role in maintaining body and organ homeostasis. Changes in epithelial function are involved in a number of disease processes, including Crohn’s disease, hypertension and endometriosis. Faculty at Marshall investigate the role of Na/K ATPase in src mediated regulation of epithelial function. This interaction between Na/K ATPase and src regulates oxidative signaling (Liu, Xie, Shapiro), transporter expression and function (Arthur, Yan, Sundaram), and tight junction expression patterns (Larre). Other researchers investigate the role of Na/K ATPase in regulating the heart and muscle types (Pierre). The second area of interest for this Research Cluster is the regulation of gene expression patterns in disease. Two primary areas of interest are regulation by ligand gated transcription factors and also epigenetic regulation of gene expression. The ahrylhydrocarbon receptor (AhR) is a ligand gated transcription factor important for response to environmental toxins. Recent studies at Marshall have shown that this transcription factor is important for a number of cell responses to endogenous ligands, including growth factors (Salisbury). Subsequent studies indicate this may be important for regulating GI function (Arthur, Salisbury, Sundaram) and in the development of breast cancer (Salisbury). We also investigate how these types of processes can regulate lymphocyte differentiation (Sollars) and lung cancer (Dasgupta). Epigenetic regulation of gene activation is an area of considerable interest. Studies at Marshall focus on two primary epigenetic mechanisms: regulation of chromatin folding in addiction and cancer (Georgel) and micro-RNA in mitochondrial function (Koc), cardiovascular disease and endometriosis (Santanam). The third primary research area in this Research Cluster is the cellular and molecular control of tissue degeneration and regeneration. Research includes the potential of stem cells in regenerative medicine (Cai) as well as several researchers who focus specifically on liver dysfunction and regeneration (Sodhi, Sanabria). For each of our major research areas it is our goal to interweave basic and clinical researchers to investigate cell biological issues with a truly translational approach.

Students are required to select a minimum of 5 credit hours of courses from the list below (including at least one course from list A). Please note that Cancer Biology is offered in the spring every other year. Cancer Colloquium is offered every semester.

Students are required to take a minimum of four hours of electives in areas agreed upon by their advisory committees. One of the strengths of the CBRC is that it allows students to specialize according to their individual interests. Students have the opportunity to select from a wide variety of electives. For example, students in the cluster may have specific interests in epigenetics or signaling pathways in cancer research, or develop complementary skills in microscopy.

Required Research Cluster Courses 
Course Number Course Name Credit Hours
List A 
BMR 651 Cancer Biology  4
PHS 666 Physiology of the Cell 3
PHS 667 Experimental Approaches to Physiology  4
List B 
BMR 679 Special Problems  1
BMR 676 Cell Biology Research Cluster Journal Club  1
BMS 652 Cancer Biology Colloquium  1
BMR 631 Neuroscience and Developmental Biology Literature Review  1
ACB 640 Current Topics in Cellular Biology  1 or 2
Suggested Electives 
BIC 643 Molecular Signal Transduction  3
BIC 638 Advanced Molecular Genetics  3*
CHM 678 Applied Microscopy in Research  4
BMS 670  Molecular Cloning 2
MCB 648 Molecular Basis of Pathogenesis 3
BMR 641 Molecular Development 3

*Only offered every odd-number year.  


Basic Science Researcher  Research Interests 
Ruhul Amin, Ph.D.  Head and neck cancer, lung cancer and natural compounds
Subha Arthur, Ph.D.  Gastro-intestinal cell physiology and transport
Beverly Delidow, Ph.D. Cell Adhesion and signaling in cancer 
Liquan Cai, Ph.D. Stem cell and regeneration medicine 
Piyali Dasgupta, Ph.D. Lung cancer and TRPC/TRPV channels
Philippe Georgel, Ph.D.  Gene Expression; epigenetics-cancer/metabolic dx
Emine Koc, Ph.D. Mitchondrial proteomics
Jiang Liu, MD, Ph.D.  Epithelial cell physiology and oxidative signaling
Sandrine Pierre, Ph.D. Cell physiology and signaling 
Travis Salisbury, Ph.D. Signal regulated gene expression 
Komal Sodhi, MD Liver function in non alcoholic steatosis
Vincent Sollars, Ph.D.  Heat shock proteins and cancer 
Yanling Yan, Ph.D.  Epithelial Cell Physiology; Chronic renal diseases
Nalini Santanam, Ph.D.  Metabolic signaling/abiogenesis; epigenetics
James Denvir, Ph.D. Bioinformatics
Yevgeniy Shakirov, Ph.D. Genetic determinants of cellular homeostasis
Clinical Researcher  Research Interests 
Joseph Shapiro, MD Hypertension, Renal Diseases
Uma Sundaram, MD Nurtition, inflammatory bowel disease
Juan Sanabria, MD  Liver tumors and liver regeneration