The research target for Sheng Cao, M.D., during the past few years has been neuropilin 1 (NRP1), which originally was found as a neuron axonal guidance molecule in the neuronal system.
Dr. Cao and his colleagues found that NRP1 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 NRP1 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.
- NRP1. Dr. Cao is interested in the functional role of NRP1 and its pathophysiology in liver cirrhosis and cancer.
- Synectin. Dr. Cao is investigating synectin, a PDZ domain-containing protein that has been a central adaptor molecule in different signaling pathways and is an important mediator of receptor stability, including for NRP1.
- Dynamin 2. Dr. Cao is studying the large GTPase dynamin 2, with a specific focus on its role in endothelial cells and angiogenesis in liver disease.
Significance to patient care
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.
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 cirrhosis survive five years after diagnosis.
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 journal; Hepatology journal; Journal of Cellular Physiology; Journal of Molecular and Cellular Cardiology; Lipids journal; PLOS One journal