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$1 Million Awarded to Emory Bioresearchers to Study Evolution of Gene Regulation

Posted by Laura Braden on Wed, Feb 25, 2015

RNACharles Darwin had a theory. A theory that people and animals could evolve by growing, changing and adapting to their conditions. Evolution, now widely known and accepted throughout the world of science, still has many unknown factors, and how certain things evolve is still being studied. How proteins evolve from having one function to multiple functions, and how RNA molecules evolve from being unimportant to having vital roles in cell regulation are a few of the things that scientists are still researching. (Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

The W.M Keck Foundation recently awarded Eric Ortlund, PhD. of Emory University $1 million to support his research of how gene regulation changes and evolves. Ortlund's research focuses on studying the glucocorticoid receptor (a steroid hormone receptor) and how it evolves to have different functions without losing previous functions. 


The glucocorticoid receptor is being studied because it has the ability to turn some genes on while turning others off, and can also bind DNA in different modes to accomplish these functions. Other receptor's related to the glucocorticoid receptor, like progesterone and mineralocorticoid, only have one ability - to activate.

Why does the glucocorticoid receptor have a second function that other related receptor's do not? How did this evolution occur? These are the types of questions that Ortlund and his Emory research team are working to answer. Through reconstructing and studying ancestral steroid receptor molecules that are no longer found in living organisms, the bioresearchers hope to understand how changes occurred. 

“We will walk these ancient proteins and non-coding RNAs forward through evolutionary time to understand how DNA sequence changes drove changes in cell signaling,” Ortlund explained.  

The glucocorticoid receptor is also a protein target for certain anti-inflammatory drugs and is a target of a decoy RNA molecule, Gas5, that has a role in certain cancers. Through further research of this receptor, the researchers will not only gain a better understanding how evolution occurs at a molecular level, but they will also be able to provide information that could help with the development of new anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer drugs. 

Emory University is a multi-million dollar bioresearch marketplace.

Meet with life science researchers at the Emory University School of Medicine (Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Emory University is a multi-million dollar research marketplace that makes big contributions to the life sciences. Biotechnology Calendar, Inc. produces an annual BioResearch Product Faire™ Event at Emory that gives lab supply companies the opportunity to meet with more than 100 active researchers. 

At the 2014 15th Annual BRPF™ Event, 145 researchers attended the popular event. 42 of the attendees were professors, post docs and purchasing agents, and 25 were lab managers.  

To learn more about participating in the 16th Annual BioResearch Product Faire™ Event happening at Emory University on March 5, 2015 as either a lab supplier or a researcher, visit the appropriate link below: 


Exhibit at  Emory University             Researchers:  Attend Emory Event


Interested in the Georgia bioresearch marketplace? Make the most of your time and budget by participating in the 16th Annual BioResearch Product Faire™ at the University of Georgia, Athens on March 4, 2015


Tags: Emory University, Southern, 2015, Emory, BioResearch Product Faire Event, Atlanta, GA, Glucocorticoid receptor

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