Min Wu Awarded Four-Year NIH R01 Grant
Min Wu, Ph.D. of the UND Biomedical Sciences Department was awarded a four-year R01 grant from the National Institutes of Health titled “Long noncoding RNAs interact with miRNAs to regulate inflammatory response.”
Bacterial infection is a major health threat worldwide, affecting the lives of millions and imposing a hefty cost, with $40 billion in medical costs in the United States alone each year. The innate immunity allows the body to mount an inflammatory response to battle against inviding bacteria. Inflammation is critical for host defense, but an overzealous response causes damage to critical organs such as the heart, liver, and lungs, even claiming the patient’s life.
Non-coding RNAs were previously considered as useless JUNKs. However, recent research demonstrates that some non-coding RNAs play critical roles in regulating body functions. Wu lab recently discovered that long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) MEG3-4 regulates innate immunity against infection (Science Signaling, 2018)*. Li et al., show that MEG3-4 functions at binding a non-coding small-sized miRNA-138, forcing miRNA-138 to release its binding partner, interleukin-1β (IL-1β) to agitate inflammatory response. These findings provide a platform to continue the intriguing research funded by the R01 grant, which will deeply understand the molecular function of MEG3-4. This research may help design better strategies for controlling invading microorganisms, such as superbugs Klebsiella pneumoniae and Pseudomonas aeruginosa.
*The research paper is available online at http://stke.sciencemag.org/content/11/536/eaao2387.long