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Defining regulators of hematopoietic stem cell self-renewal to prevent and treat blood cancers.

Institution: University of California, Santa Cruz
Investigator(s): Atesh Worthington,
Award Cycle: 2019 (Cycle 30) Grant #: T30DT0878 Award: $166,350
Subject Area: Cancer
Award Type: Dissertation Awards

Initial Award Abstract
Nicotine, the addictive compound in tobacco and electronic cigarettes, has been considered the safer alternative to tobacco. However, recent studies have begun to question this assumption and provide clear evidence of its harmful effects on cell functions. Specifically, nicotine has been shown to increase the number of blood stem cells, called hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs). HSCs are responsible for the daily formation of all blood and immune cells, and are essential for life. The number of HSCs must be tightly controlled because too many can lead to cancer, and too few can cause bone marrow failure. One way this is controlled is through the HSC's ability to make more of themselves through a process called self-renewal. I am interested in understanding how HSC self-renewal is normally regulated and how exposure to nicotine affects this unique property of HSCs. Ultimately, I hope to use the new insights gained from this study to develop strategies to more effectively and precisely treat and prevent blood cancers and tobacco-related diseases.