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Jichao Chen, Ph.D., M.H.S.

Present Title & Affiliation

Primary Appointment

Assistant Professor, Department of Pulmonary Medicine - Research, Division of Internal Medicine, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX

Dual/Joint/Adjunct Appointment

Assistant Professor, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Division of Basic Science Research, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX

Research Interests

  Genetic control of lung progenitor cells

            The human lung is a complex three-dimensional tubular network consisting of more than 20 generations of conducting airways and 300 million alveoli for gas exchange. The entire lung arises from a group of embryonic progenitor cells via exquisitely orchestrated processes that include branching morphogenesis to build a tree-like structure and cellular differentiation to generate diverse cell types. Although much is known about each process individually, a key knowledge gap and hence the focus of my laboratory is how different processes are coordinated and deployed at the correct time and location.

            We seek to answer questions at the interface between morphogenesis and differentiation in the lung. (1) Branching morphogenesis does not continue forever; what mechanism stops branching and how such a mechanism is coordinated with gestation time to ensure a functional lung at birth? Whether and how does premature birth interfere with this mechanism? (2) What sets the boundary between the two airway compartments, the proximal conducting airways and distal alveolar regions? Does it involve a morphogen gradient as demonstrated in the classic studies of embryonic patterning in Drosophila? (3) What controls the tapering in tube diameter over branch generation such that the airway tree achieves optimal transport efficiency as defined by Murray's Law, which states that the cube of the parent tube diameter is equal to the sum of the cubes of its two daughter tube diameters? Whether and how does tube diameter regulate the number and distribution of differentiated airway cells?

            We utilize a three-dimensional imaging technology, optical projection tomography, to simultaneously visualize morphogenesis and differentiation in the whole lung. In combination with mouse genetics and genomic approaches, we have identified key transcriptional and hormonal regulators that will allow us to address each of these questions.  Interested individuals can contact jchen16@mdanderson.org for details.

Education & Training

Degree-Granting Education

2007 The Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD, MHS, Bioinformatics
2007 The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, PHD, Molecular Biology and Genetics
2001 Fudan University, Shanghai, China, BS, Biochemistry

Postgraduate Training

3/2007-3/2011 Postdoc, Biochemistry, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, Mark Krasnow

Honors and Awards

2014-2016 MDACC R. Lee Clark Fellows Award
2013-2014 UT Lung SPORE Career Development Award
2013 MDACC Division of Internal Medicine Distinguished Paper Award
2013 MDACC Division of Internal Medicine Researcher of the Year
2011-2013 The University of Texas System Rising STARS award
2007-2010 Jane Coffin Childs Memorial Fund for Medical Research
2007 Phi Beta Kappa (Ph.D.)
1999-2000 Monsanto Fellowship for Distinguished Students
1998-2000 Excellent Student of Fudan University
1998-2000 Outstanding Student Fellowship of Fudan University
1998-2000 People Scholarship of Fudan University
1998 Hongkong Sponsor Fellowship for distinguished students
1997 Tan Jiazhen Life Science Fellowship
1997 The Freshman Fellowship for excellent performance in the National College Entrance Examinations

Selected Publications

Peer-Reviewed Original Research Articles

1. Yang J, Chen J. Developmental Programs of Lung Epithelial Progenitors: a Balanced Progenitor Model. Wiley Interdiscip Rev Dev Biol 3(5):331-47, 9/2014. e-Pub 6/2014. PMCID: PMC4135449.
2. Alanis DM, Chang DR, Akiyama H, Krasnow MA, Chen J. Two Nested Developmental Waves Demarcate a Compartment Boundary in the Mouse Lung. Nat Commun 5:3923, 2014. e-Pub 5/2014. PMID: 24879355.
3. Chang DR, Martinez Alanis D, Miller RK, Ji H, Akiyama H, McCrea PD, Chen J. Lung epithelial branching program antagonizes alveolar differentiation (cover article). Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. e-Pub 9/2013. PMID: 24058167.
4. Chen J, Krasnow MA. Integrin Beta 1 suppresses multilayering of a simple epithelium. PLoS One 7(12):e52886, 12/2012. PMCID: PMC3528644.
5. Chen J, Nathans J. Estrogen-related receptor beta/NR3B2 controls epithelial cell fate and endolymph production by the stria vascularis. Dev Cell 13(3):325-37, 9/2007. PMID: 17765677.
6. Chen J, Nathans J. Genetic ablation of cone photoreceptors eliminates retinal folds in the retinal degeneration 7 (rd7) mouse. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 48(6):2799-805, 6/2007. PMID: 17525215.
7. Chen J, Rattner A, Nathans J. Effects of L1 retrotransposon insertion on transcript processing, localization and accumulation: lessons from the retinal degeneration 7 mouse and implications for the genomic ecology of L1 elements. Hum Mol Genet 15(13):2146-56, 7/1/2006. e-Pub 5/24/2006. PMID: 16723373.
8. Chen J, Rattner A, Nathans J. The rod photoreceptor-specific nuclear receptor Nr2e3 represses transcription of multiple cone-specific genes. J Neurosci 25(1):118-29, 1/5/2005. PMID: 15634773.

Grant & Contract Support

Title: MDACC-IRG
Funding Source: UT-MDACC
Role: Principal Investigator
Duration: 7/1/2014 - 6/30/2014
 
Title: R. Lee Clark Fellows Award
Funding Source: UT-MDACC
Role: Principal Investigator
Duration: 4/1/2014 - 3/31/2016
 
Title: Developmental gene regulatory network in lung tumor initiation
Funding Source: UT-MDACC Lung SPORE Career Development Award
Role: Principal Investigator
Duration: 2/1/2013 - 1/31/2014
 
Title: Lung development and lung cancer
Funding Source: The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center Start-up Fund
Role: Investigator
Duration: 3/22/2011 - present
 
Title: 3D imaging of lung development
Funding Source: The University of Texas System Rising STARS award
Role: Investigator
Duration: 9/17/2010 - 9/16/2013
 
Title: Airway tube size control
Funding Source: Jane Coffin Childs Memorial Fund for Medical Research
Role: Postdoctoral Fellow
Duration: 9/1/2007 - 8/31/2010

Last updated: 6/30/2014