Dr. Ronald P. Hart awarded $1 million grant from National Cancer Institute
Dr. Ronald P. Hart, of the Rutgers Department of Cell Biology and Neuroscience, has recently been awarded a $1 million National Institutes of Health (NIH) Challenge Grant In Health Science Research from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) for his project, “Genome-wide Chromatin Modification Targeting by Endogenous Small RNAs,” funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act 0f 2009.
The goal of Dr. Hart’s NCI-funded research project, which is a collaboration with Dr. Manolis Kellis of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratories and the Broad Institute at MIT (and which is based on work by Dr. Hart’s former Rutgers graduate student, Dr. Loyal Goff, who now works with Dr. Kellis), is to identify and characterize classes of genome-encoded small RNAs, non-coding RNAs, and the regulation of epigenetic marks which affect long-term modulation of gene expression within hESCs, and their effects on carcinogenesis in humans. According to Dr. Hart, epigenetic modifications are inheritable alterations to the genome, and carcinogenesis is likely to include aberrant use of this small RNA pathway to cause long-term changes in gene expression in transformed cells. “Epigenetic marking is one of the next great questions in biology and medicine,” says Dr. Hart, and his research will explore the hypothesis that endogenous small RNAs are the key link between histone modification mechanisms and individual genomic loci. He and his colleagues believe that it will eventually be possible to therapeutically treat certain human cancers by targeting epigenetic modulation of selected genes using artificial smRNAs.
Dr. Ronald P. Hart is a leading expert in functional genomics technologies in the central nervous system and stem cells. Dr. Hart obtained a Bachelor of Science degree from The University of Connecticut and a doctorate from The University of Michigan Medical School. Following postdoctoral training at Rockefeller University, he joined the Rutgers Faculty of Arts and Sciences—Newark in the Department of Biological Sciences in 1985.
In 2000, Dr. Hart was recruited to establish functional genomics technologies at the W. M. Keck Center for Collaborative Neuroscience on the Busch campus with a pilot project funded by the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation, and subsequently established the Neuroscience Gene Expression Laboratory (NGEL) within the W. M. Keck Center. In 2005, Dr. Hart was awarded one of the first New Jersey Stem Cell Research Grants. He is the author of more than 70 peer-reviewed publications.