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Loyola biology professor receives National Institutes of Health grant to fund research on genome instability

| By Nick Alexopulos

Lisa Scheifele, Ph.D., an assistant professor of biology at Loyola University Maryland, has received a three-year, $238,120 award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to fund her project, “The Contribution of Fragile Site Structure to Genome Instability in Humanized Yeast.”

“Fragile sites are regions in chromosomes that tend to break, and they are a hallmark of cancer cells,” said Scheifele, who earned her doctorate in cell and molecular biology at Penn State College of Medicine and joined the Loyola faculty in 2009. “Human cells have hundreds of these sites, and some break more frequently than others, but we don’t understand why.”

Scheifele’s project uses yeast cells as a model. The NIH grant will allow her to use technology, including DNA microarrays and next-generation DNA sequencing, which would not otherwise be available to her. “I’ll be able to examine the entire genome at once to see where the chromosomes are breaking. Hopefully, this will help us to learn which sites in the human genome we should be monitoring more closely during cancer progression,” she said.

The grant also provides funding for six undergraduate students to work with Scheifele over the next three summers. “The students will have an opportunity to create the conditions under which the chromosomes break, and to actually determine where the breaks occur in the chromosome.”

She aims to produce at least one journal article and numerous conference presentations as she pursues the project, and anticipates that her student research assistants could have an opportunity to co-author an article with her.

Scheifele’s award closely follows Loyola’s receipt of a $273,698 National Science Foundation grant supporting the acquisition of a laser scanning confocal microscope.

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