Biomedical Engineering Researcher to Explore Immune System Impact on Genome Engineering

Photo Submitted

A biomedical engineering faculty member has received a $50,000 award to pursue a new line of research into the immune system’s role in genome engineering.

Christopher Nelson, assistant professor of biomedical engineering, earned the funding through the American Society of Gene and Cell Therapy’s Career Development program. Nelson holds the 21st Century Professorship in Biomedical Engineering.

His research program is adapting genome editing technologies to treat genetic disease. Genetic diseases are caused by a change in the DNA sequence away from the normal sequence. Nelson’s research involves modifying DNA by using molecular scissors, known as CRISPR, to make precise genome modifications with a goal of fixing disease-causing mutations.

The ASGCT award adds a new direction to Nelson’s research that will explore how the immune system impacts emerging genome engineering therapies.

“This line of research is important to the field, as high-profile failures in the past warn that the immune system plays a critical role in the success or failure of biomolecular therapies,” Nelson said.

Nelson’s previous research in animal models of muscular dystrophy has shown the body’s immune response to CRISPR may provide an additional barrier to translating genome editing therapies to clinical use, he said. That work was published in Nature Medicine earlier this year. 

“The immune response to delivery vehicles or genome editing technologies could prevent successful gene editing or cause a dangerous host response,” Nelson said. “Full characterization of these risks and strategies to avoid a host response are needed for clinical development.” 

The project will launch new lines of work in Nelson’s lab by providing preliminary data for future research related to immune cell biology and immune tolerance.

Raj Rao, head of the department of biomedical engineering, said the award is an important step for Nelson’s research.

“I am extremely proud of Chris for receiving the ASGCT Career Development Award and for pursuing this potentially transformative project that seeks to better understand the impact of cutting-edge gene editing technologies on the immune system,” he said.

Contacts

Nick DeMoss, director of communications
College of Engineering
479-575-5697, ndemoss@uark.edu

Headlines

Support Available to Help Faculty Provide Accommodations for Students

The Center for Educational Access wishes to remind faculty of ways they can accommodate students with additional needs as remote classes continue.

Arkansas Real Estate Foundation Endows Walton College Scholarship

The Arkansas Real Estate Foundation has endowed a scholarship to help students in the Sam M. Walton College of Business pursue a career in real estate.

Health Center Offers Remote Wellness Programming; TeleWellness Coaching

The Department of Wellness and Health Promotion has created an online calendar and wellness resources for students, faculty and staff including online exercises, wellness coaching and more.

Blending Art and Entrepreneurship

Though Adrienne Callander is an assistant professor of art and entrepreneurship, her research centers on challenging the separation of these two processes. Read about her work in Research Frontiers.

Researchers Help Expand Search for New State of Matter

U of A scientists have taken a step toward proving the existence of quantum spin liquids, which could lead to next-generation computing.

Newswire Daily