August 19, 2021
LA JOLLA—The Salk Institute has promoted Diana Hargreaves to the rank of associate professor for her notable contributions in epigenetic regulation, which make specific regions of our DNA accessible to the machinery of cells. The promotion was based on recommendations by Salk faculty and nonresident fellows, and approved by President Rusty Gage and the Institute’s Board of Trustees.
Hargreaves, a member of Salk’s Molecular and Cell Biology Laboratory, studies how the diversity of cell types in our body is controlled by proteins, called epigenetic regulators, that selectively activate genes particular to each cell type, whether it be skin, liver, brain or others. She applies her knowledge of biochemistry and epigenomics to investigate epigenetic regulation in models of cancer, embryonic-stem-cell pluripotency, and immune cell function.
“Diana’s research in cell identity regulation offers key contributions to our understanding of notable diseases, such as cancer,” says Gage. “We are beyond excited to support her continued work at Salk.”
Hargreaves studies a particular epigenetic regulator, the BAF complex, which is frequently mutated in human cancer and developmental disorders. In 2018, her lab further identified a new variant of the BAF complex, the ncBAF complex, which helps stem cells maintain their indefinite potential and provides a future target for regenerative medicine. In a recent collaboration with Ye Zheng, associate professor in Salk’s NOMIS Center for Immunobiology and Microbial Pathogenesis, the researchers discovered that by manipulating the function of the ncBAF complex, they could control regulatory T cells, immune cells that act as a cease-fire signal to prevent the immune system from attacking the body’s own tissues.
Hargreaves, who holds the Richard Heyman and Anne Daigle Endowed Developmental Chair, was awarded the Pew-Stewart Scholar for Cancer Research in 2019 and the American Cancer Society Research Scholar Award in 2020 to support her work on a better understanding of the causes, diagnosis and treatment of cancer. In 2018, Hargreaves was also among the first wave of researchers to receive competitive grants from Padres Pedal the Cause, which awards millions of dollars each year via its Discovery Grants program to cross-institutional teams of physicians and scientists from San Diego’s best cancer institutions.
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