Primary Research Focus
The research in this laboratory is to study the basic mechanisms that define cellular identity, and how identity may be altered during disease progression. In particular, we are currently investigating the mechanisms that “stem cell” genes play in the formation of multiple pediatric and adult tumors. We explore these foundational questions by the use of mouse genetics, tissue and 3D organoid culture, and molecular biology techniques combined with next generation genomic and bioinformatic analysis with a long-term goal of generating novel therapeutics to treat some of the most devastating diseases that afflict people worldwide.
About the Kareta Lab
Lab Projects and News
Oncogenic mechanism of Sox2 in Rb-deficient tumors
Loss of Rb is a cause of multiple pediatric tumors and loss of Rb function is common in nearly every human cancer, yet the role of Rb-loss in the formation in cancer is not fully understood. Sox2 has been implicated as a downstream effector following Rb loss. Determining the role of Sox2 in Rb-loss initiated tumors will then provide a basis for future investigations into novel cancer therapies.
The mechanism of SOX2 in the development of neuroendocrine lineages and its regulation of cell pliancy
Understanding the potential contributions of development on the ability of some cells to initiate cancer can have broad impacts on future therapies. Indeed, we will investigate master regulator genes that throughout development can define cellular identity, yet also promote cancer when aberrantly activated. Our objective is to use these investigations to better derive new targeted therapies and open new avenues for cancer prevention.
Meet the Kareta Lab Team
Rounak Pokharel, MS
Rounak Pokharel contributes to Small Molecular Inhibitory studies in the laboratory. He performs experiments and analyzes data.
In 2017, Rounak earned his BE Biotechnology degree from Visvesvaraya Technological University in Karnataka, India. In 2019, Rounak joined North Dakota State University, he worked as a Research Assistant at Biomedical engineering Laboratory and studied Detection of let-7b micro RNA using Electrical impedance and Dielectrophoresis. He earned his M.S Biomedical Engineering in 2020.
Hannah Wollenzien, BA
Hannah Wollenzien contributes to research and aids in guiding projects to answer the questions the lab aims to understand.
She interned for two summers in Dr. Jonathan Geiger’s lab at the University of North Dakota studying Alzheimer’s Disease. She interned for one summer in Dr. Yagna Jarajapu’s lab a North Dakota State University studying pharmacology. She was also part of the Mayo Innovations Scholars Program studying a new tool for treatment decision making for prostate cancer.In 2017, Wollenzien earned her BA in biology, chemistry and neuroscience from Concordia College. She is currently pursuing her PhD in basic biomedical sciences.
Associate Research Specialist
After graduating from Augustana University in 2020 with a Biology and Philosophy degree, Kirtana is currently working at Sanford Research as an Associate Research Specialist in the Kareta lab. Her projects focus on understanding the the function of Sox2 and related proteins, and their interactions. The broader goal of her projects is to understand which cells initiate small cell lung cancer.
Kirtana's research experience comes from Dr. Seasson Vitiello's lab at Augustana University where she studied the rare genetic disorder Friedreich ataxia. Her project focused on mapping methylated cytosines in Friedreich's ataxia cell lines. She was also part of Sanford's SPUR program for two summers where she gained her interest in research and academia.