Atrayee Bhattacharya wins Denison Award

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School of Medicine & Health Sciences


Atrayee Bhattacharya, a second-year graduate student in the Department of Biomedical Sciences, won a Denison Award for best graduate student talk at the 108th Annual Meeting of the North Dakota Academy of Science at North Dakota State University in Fargo. Bhattacharya shared first place with cowinner Nilushni Sivapragasam from North Dakota State University.

The title of Bhattacharya's talk was "The Role of CCCTC Binding Factor (CTCF) in Epithelial to Mesenchymal Transition (EMT)."

Bhattacharya works in the laboratory of Assistant Professor Archana Dhasarathy, PhD.

Dhasarathy’s lab works on a process called epithelial to mesenchymal transition or EMT. This simply reflects a change in how cells look. They change their shape from an epithelial state, which means they are well-attached and mostly stationary. During early development, and potentially during cancer metastasis, these cells change their shape to a mesenchymal form, which means they become more elongated, lose their cell-to-cell contacts, and start moving and migrating. This is really important for proper development of the embryo, but it can be disastrous in cancer, resulting in metastasis to other parts of the body.

The goal of Dhasarathy’s lab is to try and understand how this happens. They focus on a protein called SNAIL, which is often referred to as a master regulator of the EMT process. Understanding how the SNAIL gene is suddenly turned on is critical to understanding EMT and hence cancer metastasis. Atrayee Bhattacharya used bioinformatics analyses, with the help of Junguk Hur, PhD , to analyze the DNA sequence of the SNAIL gene. They were able to make the prediction that a protein called CTCF, which stands for CCCTC binding factor, might be present at the SNAIL gene. Bhattacharya then performed some experiments to show that, indeed, CTCF protein was found to bind to the DNA of SNAIL, and this happened during EMT. Dhasarathy and her colleagues are now working to understand how this happens.