The target gene for Sheng Cao, M.D., during the past three years has been a protein called neuropilin-1 (NRP-1), which originally was found as a neuron axonal guidance molecule in the neuronal system.
Dr. Cao and his colleagues found that NRP-1 overexpression was observed in human specimens of liver cirrhosis caused by both hepatitis C and steatohepatitis.
These studies, for the first time, reveal a role for NRP-1 as a modulator of multiple growth factor targets that regulate liver fibrosis and the vascular changes that accompany it. They will have broad implications for liver cirrhosis and myofibroblast biology in cancer.
- NRP-1. Dr. Cao is interested in the functional role of NRP-1 and its pathophysiology in liver cirrhosis and cancer.
- Dynamin-2. Dr. Cao is studying the large GTPase dynamin-2, specifically its role in endothelial cells and angiogenesis in liver disease.
Significance to patient care
Cirrhosis is scarring of the liver that involves the formation of fibrous tissue associated with the destruction of the normal architecture of the organ, which prevents the liver from functioning normally.
It is a serious disease, as only 30 percent of patients with this problem will survive five years after diagnosis, and the outlook is worse.
Dr. Cao and his colleagues are studying the cause of the gradual destruction of the liver in cirrhosis. Based on their research, it may be possible to find new treatments that could be made available to patients with alcohol addiction and chronic hepatitis B virus infection, as well as chronic hepatitis C virus infection in the future.
If treatment is started early, the patient may be able to lead an almost normal life, which is the ultimate aim of Dr. Cao's research.
- Member — American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases, American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology
- Member, Editorial Board, The Open Nitric Oxide Journal
- Reviewer — Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology; Hepatology; Journal of Cellular Physiology; Journal of Molecular and Cellular Cardiology; Lipids; PLoS One