Investigating functions of regulatory elements in normal blood development and blood disorders
The genome contains non-coding regions that function to control gene expression. These regulator elements play a central role in normal blood cell development. Disruption of regulatory elements will affect blood cell differentiation and lead to catastrophic disease. Our laboratory is interested in identifying and understanding these regulator elements. This work will help understand genetic factors underpinning blood disorders and inform the development and improvement of gene and cell therapy.
Our research projects involve a combination of experimental and computational approaches to better understand regulatory elements in normal hematopoiesis and blood disorders.
We apply high-throughput functional genomic approaches at population and single-cell level to accurately identify regulatory elements such as promoters, enhancers, as well as insulators and repressors in the human genome. We recently identified a unique group of CCCTC-binding factor (CTCF) binding sites that are highly lineage-specific and play an essential function in normal hematopoiesis by serving as anchors to maintain essential regulatory hubs. We also developed a novel framework to measure activities of insulators in the chromatin environment. Those novel insulators help us understand their underlying mechanism and also function as promising candidates to improve the overall efficiency and safety of gene therapy vectors.
Another major focus in our laboratory involves understanding the functions of non-coding variants through genome and epigenome editing. We recently developed a framework to precisely dissect the functional sequences within regulatory elements that controlling fetal hemoglobin levels using Base editor. This study improves our understanding on how genetic factors controlling fetal hemoglobin levels and identifies new candidates for therapeutic genome editing to treat sickle cell disease.
Dr. Yong Cheng earned his BS and MA degrees from Nankai University in China and his PhD in Biochemistry and Molecualr Biology Department at Penn State University. He conducted his postdoctoral research on comparative and functional genomics at Stanford University before joining St. Jude in 2016. He was a leading participant in the Analysis Working Group of the ENCODE Consortia, developing systematic annotations of human, work, fly, and mouse genomes. After joining St.Jude, Dr. Cheng has a growing research program that aims to understand the functions of regulatory elements in the human genome and the impact on blood development and childhood blood disorders.
A team of adventurers working together to explore the human genome jungle