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Keiper Lab Research Activities and Interests:


Cancers and congenital diseases share at least one fundamental characteristic: the affected cells choose an abnormal fate or “lifestyle” that disrupts their usual function.  If we could understand how they choose those fates and intervene, we might redirect their decisions to prevent or reverse the diseased state.  The synthesis of novel proteins advances a cell progressively toward its final state, be it neuron, muscle, gut (differentiation), or even a preprogrammed death (apoptosis).  My students and I study the type of protein synthesis activity that leads to natural apoptosis- one of the mechanisms that goes awry in breast, lung and many other cancers.  Our research, funded for over five years by the National Science Foundation, uses egg (oocyte) stem cells from a model animal system, C. elegans, to study how protein synthesis is modulated to determine the cell’s fate: natural cell death or continued oocyte growth.  A certain percentage of these germ cells naturally choose death to ensure the healthy development of the remaining eggs.  From an understanding of how oocytes choose that fate, we are currently attempting to modulate protein synthesis in human breast cancer cells in a similar, controlled fashion.  These studies hold the promise of medically selecting the natural cell death fate for tumor cells, and thereby developing new cancer therapies that are free of unwanted toxic side effects.


East Carolina University
Brett D. Keiper, Ph.D.
Dept of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology
Brody School of Medicine
Greenville, NC 27858

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