Jie (Jane) Feng
Jie (Jane) Feng, M.D., 4th year Ph.D. candidate for the Department of Chemistry, and this month’s B&B Fellow Spotlight, has always felt the need to help people afflicted with disease.
It was in her 5th year of medical school that Dr. Feng recognized her limited capacity to solve medical puzzles solely as a clinician. According to Dr. Feng, “the basic reaction of all kinds of diseases is chemistry.” To gain a deeper understanding of pathogenic mechanisms, she decided to pursue a Master of Biochemistry.
Further pursuit of the fundamentals of basic disease process led her to the Second Affiliate Hospital of the Zhejian University School of Medicine where she conducted research on bone cancer and biomaterials used in reconstructive surgery. During this time, a colleague introduced her to Dr. Jenny Yang, B&B Faculty member and Professor of Biochemistry & Biophysics at Georgia State University.
It was a perfect match. “I was at an [orthopedics] institute and Dr. Yang studied calcium, the basic element in bone,” Dr. Feng remarked.
Dr. Feng soon traveled to the United States to pursue her research interests under the mentorship of Dr. Yang. Here at GSU, she embarked on a study of two analogous receptors: calcium-sensing receptor (CaSR) and metabotropic glutamate receptor-1 (mGluR1). Dr. Feng knew, from the literature, that these receptors regulated calcium and promoted homeostasis within cells. Being the curious person she is, she wanted to know more about these two receptors. Specifically, she was interested in their mechanisms of action. One well-known mechanism was through a cascade of intercellular events via a pathway called IP3. However, it became obvious there were other pathways involved, as the IP3 pathway provided no explanation for their similar mechanism for calcium signal transduction.
Utilizing Western blot and fluorescent cell imaging to examine functional and expressional changes in cell signaling, Dr. Feng investigates the signaling pathways these receptors use and their role in bone metastasis of prostate and breast cancer cells, PC-3 and MDA-MB-231, respectively.
One might logically ask how this relates to neuroscience. It turns out, these two receptors can also be found on nerve cells. Abnormal activity of these two receptors is associated with degenerative neurological disorders. For example, mGluR1 has been implicated in Parkinson’s disease. CaSR, conversely, is thought to take on a more active role in Alzheimer’s disease by contributing to the formation of beta-amyloid peptide plaques. Still, their roles in these diseases are poorly understood. She may not be working on brain tissue directly, but Dr. Feng’s work on these receptors directly contributes to the growing literature in the area of neurodegenerative diseases.
One day, Dr. Feng hopes to return to China to find an assistant professorship that will allow her to spend time both in the lab where she can continue exploring her current research, as well as in the classroom. Until then, she offers a piece of advice for aspiring researchers and scientists. “First, you need knowledge. You need to understand and read a lot of literature. Then [always practice] the 3 basic principles of science: control, repeat, random[ize].”
Outside the lab, she spends most of her time with her daughter, whom she accompanies to swim and dance activities. And if you see her in the hallways, say “Congratulations,” because she is expecting her second child this month.
Great job being this month’s B&B Fellow Spotlight Jane!
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For previous spotlights visit our SPOTLIGHT ARCHIVE.