|Institution||College of Medicine|
|Address||500 University Drive Hershey PA 17033|
Professor of Pathology, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and Pharmacology
Chief, Division of Experimental Pathology
Distinguished Professor of Pathology, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and Pharmacology
Director, Zebrafish Functional Genomics and Imaging Core
Curator, Zebrafish Atlas
GRADUATE PROGRAM AFFILIATIONS:
Biomedical Sciences, Bioinformatics & Genomics, Genetics, MD/PhD Degree Program
M.D., New York University School of Medicine, 1980
Ph.D., Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center-University of Washington, 1986
Postdoctoral Training, University of Washington, 1987-1992
The Cheng lab is interested in making fundamental contributions to our understanding of genetic and molecular mechanisms involved in human biology and disease. We are interested in genetic aspects of human disease, use model systems such as the zebrafish, are contributing web-based scientific resources and are creating a new, potentially high-throughput form of 3D imaging. Some of our specific work is aimed at increasing our understanding the basis of phenotypic variability, particularly as it may impact cancer, basic mechanisms underlying the relationship between human skin pigmentation and skin cancer, contributing to web-based infrastructures for science, education, and public service, and working towards a 3D derivative of histology that also allows the identification and characterization of all cell types, but utilizes the computer to define slice angle, thickness, point of view, and definition of tissues of interest. Obvious implications include automation of phenotyping, including diagnostics.
Our laboratory was one of the pioneers in the use of genetic screens in zebrafish to find new genes related to cancer. Our screens targeted two processes affected in cancer: phenotypic instability and the genetic basis of cellular atypia – a feature characteristic of most human cancers. We are producing an on-line, high-resolution, full-lifespan atlas of the zebrafish that will be integrated with other anatomical web sites of zebrafish, other model organisms, and other disciplines. In collaboration with colleagues at University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory, we are developing 2D and 3D image informatics tools for systems biology and medicine, and new methods for X-ray based high-resolution 3D imaging at cellular and subcellular resolutions. In 2005, we discovered that the putative cation exchanger SLC24A5 played a key role in the evolution of light skin in Europeans and modulates vertebrate pigmentation by its effect on melanosome morphogenesis. We are trying to understand why people of East Asian ancestry are not as susceptible to skin cancer as those of European ancestry, by exploring both the molecular mechanisms of melanosome morphogenesis and the genetics underlying the light skin of East Asians/Amerindians.
The life-span atlas of zebrafish (see zfatlas.psu.edu), will provide a scaffold for gene expression and morphological phenotypic data generated in our laboratory and globally. In recognition of important work being done on specific zebrafish organ systems around the world, we are welcoming contributions of glass slides and specimens to this effort. We will use scientifically and educationally useful comparisons between stages and organisms. Our goal is to provide a model system atlas with state-of-the-art quality and the most advanced and useful links to related information. Individuals will be able to use images from this resource, as long as permissions are requested and approved by email, and appropriate citations made. Instructions for acknowledgement of the origin of those images will be provided along with permissions. Support for this project has been provided to date by resources of the Jake Gittlen Cancer Research Foundation, the National Center for Research Resources at NIH, and Pennsylvania Tobacco Funds. We plan to expand the project to include comparisons with genetic, reverse genetic, and disease abnormalities, other types of imaging, cross-disciplinary development of new imaging technologies in collaboration with engineers and computer scientists, integration with the web sites of other model systems and disciplines, and to image organisms across phylogeny for basic characterization and for the development of the new field of phenomics. Genetic phenomics involves the defining of gene function through the study of the phenotypes of mutants. Chemical phenomics involves the defining of molecular, cellular and other organismal effects of chemicals on organisms. The size of the zebrafish makes it an ideal model vertebrate in which to define cellular change in the entire organism at resolutions that allow the characterization of changes in virtually any cell type.
We were inspired by advances in genome editing and imaging technology to create a new Penn State Zebrafish Functional Genomics and Imaging Core at the Penn State Hershey College of Medicine. Through this core, we are helping investigators who have never used the zebrafish before, to use the zebrafish to answer important remaining questions in their fields of inquiry. One of the most important advantages of this model organism is that it has become practical recently to rapidly create mutations in any gene, potentially of any type. Simultaneously, our development of a mode of a rapid 3D form of histology suitable to samples of mm scale has made the zebrafish a vertebrate model of choice for studying phenotypic changes in the context of the whole organism. Initial uses of this core are targeting questions related to personalized medicine, but we are open to any well-designed investigation of significance to science. The imaging technology developed applies to any samples of mm scale, including human, rodent, invertebrate, and plant samples.
Click the "See All" links for more information and interactive visualizations!
People who are also in this person's primary department.