Dr. Herschman’s laboratory has emphasized methods of gene discovery in areas of cell growth and division, inflammation, hormone and growth factor responses, neurotrophin-driven neuronal differentiation and depolarization of neurons. One of these gene discovery programs identified cyclooxygenase 2 (COX-2). COX-2 is the target of a new generation of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs termed “coxibs” (e.g. Celebrex). Since his discovery of the Cox2 gene and COX-2 protein, much of the work from the Herschman laboratory has focused on the role of this gene in inflammation, neurodegeration, cardiovascular disease and cancer. Although it is clear that COX-2 is involved in many pathophysiologies, the cellular source of the COX-2 that mediates these events is often unclear, and frequently the topic of controversy. Dr. Herschman’s laboratory has developed a mouse in which the Cox2 gene can be eliminated in a targeted, cell-type specific fashion. His laboratory is currently using this system, and another mouse they constructed in which luciferase is expressed from the Cox2 gene to investigate the cell types that express causal COX-2 production that modifies murine models of colitis, colon cancer, skin cancer, pancreatic cancer, prostate cancer, and cardiovascular disease.
The other major area of interest in the Herschman laboratory is in non-invasive, whole animal,preclinical molecular imaging. He coordinated a project at UCLA that has combined the talents and expertise of molecular biologists, cell biologists, radiochemists, enzymologists, biochemists, instrumentation design physicists, mathematician and nuclear medicine physicians to develop an interdisciplinary technology that permits repetitive, non-invasive and quantitative imaging of reporter genes in living mammals, using a combination of molecular biology, genetic techniques and imaging instruments that employ optical imaging, computerized tomography, and positron emission tomography.
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