Scott Aoki, DVM, Ph.D.
635 Barnhill Drive
Indianapolis, IN 46202
Phone: (317) 278-3464
Research Program Membership
Dr. Aoki's research interests include:
Aberrant regulation of gene expression is a key attribute in cancer formation and metastasis. Dr. Scott Aoki will develop new methods to trigger formation and track in vivo processing bodies (P-bodies), subcellular RNA regulatory structures that play crucial roles in stress responses, cell homeostasis and immunity. This research will be focused on inherent differences in human breast, lung, pancreatic and colon cancers. This work will be a part of the RNA Cancer Biology Working Group from the Tumor MicroEnvironment (TME) and Experimental and Developmental Therapeutics (EDT) Program of the Indiana University Simon Cancer Center and will provide insights to: 1) Develop new methods to identify biological markers in cancer cell subpopulations 2) Redefine the tumor microenvironment and cells that contribute to metastasis 3) Identify new therapeutic targets to modulate cell homeostasis Emerging evidence points to P-bodies and its components as key cellular response elements to chemotherapy and cancer pathology. Thus, Dr. Aoki's discoveries will make substantive contributions to the IU Simon Cancer Center and its TME and EDT Programs. Dr. Aoki's program combines structural biology methods with the Caenorhabditis elegans model organism to determine the in vivo functions of RNA-protein granules, cytoplasmic collections of RNA-protein complexes involved in RNA regulation. P-bodies are a particular RNA-protein granule found in nucleated cells of worms, mice and humans. They consist of proteins involved in RNA degradation and mRNAs involved in cell homeostasis. Cells form P-bodies during periods of stress (e.g. breast cancer cells exposed to chemotherapy agents) but their specific functions in managing cell and organismal homeostasis remain unknown. Dr. Aoki is currently investigating 1) metabolites that trigger P-body formation and 2) the development of new methods to track P-body components in vivo. He uses C. elegans because of their ease in genetic manipulation, fast generational time and stellar imaging capabilities. The strategy is to discover conserved mechanisms and develop novel protein tracking methods in worms that can later be explored in vertebrate models and in the clinic. The translational opportunities from these studies are two-fold. First, the ability to track proteins and their stability in vivo allows the identification of new biomarkers to reclassify cell types in a homogenous-appearing cell population. For example, similar strategies have been used to identify Drosophila germ stem cells and their distinct histone modifications. Second, identifying metabolites that trigger P-body assembly opens doors to discovering new drugs that can stimulate or inhibit P-body formation to modulate cellular stress responses, a key factor in immune responses, angiogenesis and cancer pathogenesis.
Post-doctoral Fellowship - University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI 2012-2017
Ph.D. - Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 2006-2010
D.V.M. - University of California-Davis, Davis, CA 2002-2006