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UT Professor Awarded NIH MIRA Grant for 3D Genome Structure Research

Skin cancer cell nuclei buckle, bend, and deform as the cells squeeze through narrow constrictions in a dense collagen gel. The more these nuclei can change their shape, the more likely the skin cancer is to become metastatic, crawling through the body to spread to distant sites. Figuring out how these shape changes happen will be a step toward improving diagnosis and treatment of metastatic cancer.

A UT biophysicist has been awarded a $1.84 million Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award (MIRA) from the National Institute for General Medical Science (NIGMS) to investigate how the 3D folded structure of the human genome reacts to physical stress in health and disease.

The award provides funding to operate Rachel Patton McCord’s lab and research program. McCord is an assistant professor in UT’s Department of Biochemistry and Cellular and Molecular Biology.

NIGMS is among the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The MIRA program provides long-term stability—the funding is granted over five years—and allows for flexibility if the direction of a project shifts.

McCord’s project seeks to clarify the role of a chromosome’s structure in its biological response to physical stress, which can inform future disease diagnosis and treatment.

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