Research

The focus of our research is to understand enhancer biology and the role of non-coding genome in controlling gene expression and shaping the genome architecture in health and disease. Regulatory elements such as enhancers establish cell type-specific transcription units and gene expression programs by recruiting the necessary set of transcription factors. Enhancer reprogramming and malfunction in diseases such as cancer can lead to aberrant regulatory events and activation of tumorigenic signaling pathways. 

The on-going project in the lab focuses on the regulatory features of two cancer types currently having a poor prognosis and limited treatment options, namely liver and pancreatic cancers. Specifically, our aim is to address how lineage-specific transcription factors collaborate with oncogenes to orchestrate early events of tumorigenesis, and to elucidate what are the primary events necessary and sufficient to make cancer.

Our approach is to combine cell fate conversion assays and multi-layered omics data from next-generation sequencing-based methods to understand the plasticity of genome organization and enhancer malfunction. Importantly, our novel cellular transformation assay provides a dynamic experimental platform for interrogating the role of specific transcriptional features in a controlled manner and combined with the systematic genome-wide data about transcription factor binding, epigenetic signatures and higher-order chromatin structure will elucidate the comprehensive landscape of transcriptional regulation in the context of normal and malignant cells.

The Enhancer Biology group is part of the newly selected Applied Tumor Genomics Program of the Research Programs Unit at the Faculty of Medicine, University of Helsinki for the years 2019-2024.

Go here to take a look at our research findings and publications.