Investigating Cushing’s Disease

Spatial genomics analysis using normal human pituitary

The pituitary is an endocrine gland, located on the skull base, which consists of five distinct endocrine cell-types. The hormones from the pituitary are essential in coordinating body metabolism and homeostasis. Despite their importance, the full gene expression profiles of the five pituitary endocrine cells have not been well studied.

Assistant Professor Takako Araki (Medicine) and Associate Professor and MSI PI Yasuhiko Kawakami (Genetics, Cell Biology and Development) are studying Cushing’s disease, a tumor derived from one of the pituitary cells. This disease occurs most often in female patients. The researchers are working on a project called “Generating Comprehensive Molecular Profiles of Human Pituitary Cells and Cushing's Disease,” that will generate comprehensive data of human normal pituitary cells, and, using these data, will further generate a comparable gene expression profile of one of the normal pituitary cells and pituitary tumor cells. The project aims to identify genes involved in Cushing’s tumor development, and understand the its gender-biased occurrence. The ultimate goal is to translate into the development of novel treatments for Cushing’s disease. Staff from MSI’s Bioinformatics group are participating in this research. 

This project recently received a UMII Seed Grant. UMII Seed Grant funds are intended to promote, catalyze, accelerate and advance UMN-based informatics research so that UMN faculty and staff are well prepared to compete for longer term external funding opportunities. 

Professor Kawakami’s research group uses MSI for genomics research related to early mammalian development.

Image description: Spatial genomics analysis using normal human pituitary. The section is stained with anti-POMC, anti-PRL, and anti-TSH. The circles are the areas of interest (top); extracted mRNA profiles are shown as a heat map (bottom).

posted on March 22, 2023

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