Firefly Frontiers Winner: Sukhinder Sandu

Dr. Sukhinder Sandhu, PhD, was a post doctoral fellow with Dr. Carlo Croce at The Ohio State University Medical Center. In Dr. Croce’s lab, Dr. Sandhu studied role of microRNAs (miRs) in cancers, mainly B cell lymphomas. She used her Firefly Frontiers Grant to characterize the genetic profile and heterogeneity of tumors caused by overexpression of the miR-17-92 microRNA cluster. Dr. Sandhu is now a Scientist at Swift BioSciences. Ann Arbor, MI.

Check out the publication from this work in PNAS here.

What fascinates you most about microRNAs?

The fact that dysregulation of a single microRNA can cause havoc in the cell and even an organism is very fascinating. It unravels a whole new level of regulation that connects microRNAs to the "decision makers" - mRNA and proteins.

Where do you see the miRNA field headed in the next 5 years?  What areas are most promising for breakthrough discoveries?

The miRNA field is expanding fast, and the fact that they are part of the non-coding genome, which constitutes the majority of the human genome, makes them very interesting and informative candidates for research. miRNA levels in different biological specimens are being used as biomarkers of both disease stage and response to therapy. Hence breakthrough discoveries are needed in the field of miRNA detection in these specimens: blood, serum, plasma, tumor, circulating tumor cells, and, maybe, buccal (cheek) swab, or a skin wipe!

What is your biggest pain point when it comes to microRNA research?
 
A few of the areas which can be challenging are in-situ detection of miRNAs in cells and tissues or detecting miRNAs in archived samples like frozen cell pellets or formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded samples (FFPEs).
 
What advantages does FirePlex miRSelect bring to your research? 

Fireplex miRSelect has offered something I had not really imagined, but was somehow preparing and saving my samples for in our freezer. The fact that it can do miRNA profiling from formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded (FFPE) samples, frozen cells and blood is a great asset to my research project of using mouse models to study and characterize human lymphomas based on miRNA expression. It is important for such studies, because it is hard to plan all the assays upfront when the mouse is being necropsied for initial analysis especially when we are trying to characterize a disease model and determine the course of disease. So if we have the tissues, blood, plasma tucked away and our preliminary analysis show a phenotype, Firefly Bioworks enables us get more data and in-depth analysis to these diseases.