Dr. Jian Hu
The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
Department of Cancer Biology
The research focus of Hu lab is on stem cells and glial biology in the central nervous system (CNS), particularly under the context of glioma and neurodegenerative diseases. Malignant glioma is the most common and lethal type of primary brain tumor. Substantial evidence has revealed a population of neural stem cell (NSC)-like glioma stem cells (GSCs) that possess an inexhaustible ability to self-renew as the “root” of gliomas. Like NSCs, GSCs are known to maintain their stemness by interacting with niches, which provides proper cues to prevent them from differentiating. One of the aspects of our research is to decipher the mechanism underpinning how GSCs manage to sustain their self-renewal capacity in the sub-optimal environment outside the niches, particularly during the process of invasion and migration. The majority of the immune cells in malignant gliomas are glioma-associated myeloid (GAM) cells. Despite the promising therapeutic potential of GAM-cell modulation, little is known regarding the molecular mechanisms underlying their suppressive conversion during the course of tumorigenesis. The second aspect of Hu lab research is trying to fill the knowledge gaps of how GAM cells are converted from the antitumor to pro-tumor state and develop rational immunotherapeutic interventions to reverse immune-suppressive, tumor-promoting polarization of GAM cells. The third aspect of Hu lab research is to look for new therapeutic approaches for demyelinating diseases/conditions such as multiple sclerosis and chemotherapy-induced neurological defects (chemo brain). Myelin is a specialized multilayer membrane structure that is assembled by oligodendrocytes or Schwann cells. Demyelinating diseases/conditions are acquired disorders in which myelin and/or oligodendrocytes are injured. Our recent study of mature myelin maintenance led to surprising discoveries that mature myelin is a very dynamic material with rapid turnover of its lipid components. Currently we are trying to develop new approaches to restore lipid metabolism in demyelinating diseases/conditions.