Institute for Stem Cell & Regenerative Medicine

at the University of Washington

Core Faculty

Zhijun Duan PhD

University of Washington
Research Associate Professor


Office: 206.543.7758

Our research activities focus on deciphering the structure-function relationship of the genome to understand the molecular mechanisms underlying human development and tumorigenesis. It is increasingly recognized that the genetic materials, i.e., the genomic DNA, in human cells are nonrandomly organized into nested hierarchy in the three-dimensional (3D) space of the nucleus and this spatial organization critically impacts human health and disease, including cancer. Defects in the 3D genome organization have been observed in a wide spectrum of human diseases. Over the past years, we have developed a series of cutting-edge genomic tools for delineating the 3D genome organization globally or locally.

In addition to developing innovative technologies, we are using these tools to investigate how the 3D genome organization goes wrong in blood disorders. Nuclear dysplasia, i.e., abnormal changes in the size and shape of the nucleus, such as hyper-segmented neutrophils, hypolobated neutrophils and acquired Pelger–Huët anomalies (PHAs), is a hallmark for the diagnosis of many hematologic disorders, such as myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS). MDS are a group of clonal disorders of hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells. Characterized by dysplastic hematopoiesis, cytopenia and increased risk of progression to acute myeloid leukemia (AML), MDS remains a poorly treated, life-threatening disease. It remains unclear how the nuclear dysplasia that defines these disorders relates to MDS pathogenesis. To understand how 3D genome disruption may lead to MDS, we are using population-based and single-cell assays to identify abnormal features of the 3D genome and cis-regulatory landscapes in MDS blood cells, with the goal to provide new pathophysiological insights that has the potential to pave the way for developing better MDS diagnostics and therapeutics.

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