(From the March 2014 issue of Research Now)
The Johnson laboratory is interested in developing better treatment options for children suffering from the pediatric brain tumor called ependymoma. Previous work has determined that overexpression of the cell surface tyrosine kinase receptor ephrin-B2 (EphB2) in embryonic neural stem cells (eNSC) is required for a subclass of ependymomas. The Johnson lab has received the coveted Hyundai Hope on Wheels grant and with the help of Pearlly Yan (Technical Director, OSUCCC Nucleic Acid Shared Resource) is studying the genetic and epigenetic changes involved in the transformation of eNSCs into ependymoma in their mouse model systems. Studies by Dr. Johnson and his team have determined that receptor activation is required for tumor development and they are currently identifying the EphB2 mediated cell signaling pathways responsible for eNSC transformation in hopes of finding novel therapeutic targets for treating this disease. In addition, they are actively investigating the role of the Ink4a/Arf locus as a tumor suppressor in the formation of ependymoma.