Herbert Lab

The research lab of Brittney-Shea Herbert, PhD studies the roles of telomeres and telomerase in aging and cancer.

The Herbert Lab is focused on researching the genetic mechanisms of aging and cancer, including the mechanisms of how normal cells can immortalize and become tumorigenic.

Active Research

Telomerase, a cellular reverse transcriptase, has been shown to maintain the chromosomal ends (telomeres) which allows for an unlimited cellular lifespan. Immortal cells and over 90% of human cancers contain telomerase activity, while telomerase activity is undetectable in most somatic cells. Induced expression of telomerase results in the immortalization of normal cells and these cells can be expanded and induced to differentiate. Conversely, inhibition of telomerase in cancer cells results in telomere shortening, reduction of cell growth, tumor formation, and metastases in vitro and in vivo. Therefore, telomerase represents not only a tool for regenerative biology, but also a target for cancer therapy.

The Herbert laboratory is currently investigating the role of telomerase in cell growth and the replicative potential in normal and cancerous cells using natural/ synthetic compounds, gene therapy, or oligonucleotides that can regulate telomerase activity.

Inherited Cancer Predisposition Syndromes

The laboratory also investigates the molecular genetics and cell biology of inherited cancer predisposition syndromes. The Herbert Lab is currently using a unique system of normal, immortalized, and tumorigenic mammary epithelial cells from individuals predisposed to cancer with genetic mutations, such as Li-Fraumeni Syndrome (p53+/-) or BRCA1/2, as well as cells from individuals with no history of breast cancer. The aim is to develop and test novel therapeutics or preventative strategies for cancer.

Recent Publications

Zhang L, Jambusaria A, Hong Z, Marsboom G, Toth PT, Herbert BS, Malik AB, Rehman J. SOX17 Regulates Conversion of Human Fibroblasts Into Endothelial Cells and Erythroblasts by Dedifferentiation Into CD34(+) Progenitor Cells. Circulation. 2017; 135(25):2505-2523. PMC5472005.

de Almeida RM, Clendenon SG, Richards WG, Boedigheimer M, Damore M, Rossetti S, Harris PC, Herbert BS, Xu WM, Wandinger-Ness A, Ward HH, Glazier JA, Bacallao RL. Transcriptome analysis reveals manifold mechanisms of cyst development in ADPKD. Hum Genomics. 2016; 10(1):37. PMC5117508.

Subbaramaiah K, Brown KA, Zahid H, Balmus G, Weiss RS, Herbert BS, Dannenberg AJ. Hsp90 and PKM2 Drive the Expression of Aromatase in Li-Fraumeni Syndrome Breast Adipose Stromal Cells. J Biol Chem. 2016; 291(31):16011-23. PMC4965552.

Koziel JE, Herbert BS. The telomerase inhibitor imetelstat alone, and in combination with trastuzumab, decreases the cancer stem cell population and self-renewal of HER2+ breast cancer cells. Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2015; 149(3):607-18. PMC4667948.

Sprouse AA, Herbert BS. Resveratrol augments paclitaxel treatment in MDA-MB-231 and paclitaxel-resistant MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cells. Anticancer Res. 2014; 34(10):5363-74. PubMed PMID: 25275030.

Faculty Research Team

Brittney-Shea Herbert, PhD

Brittney-Shea Herbert, PhD

Assistant Dean for Physician Scientist Development