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Environmental Factor

Environmental Factor

Your Online Source for NIEHS News

October 2016

Tang named Women Scientist Advisors Scholar

NIEHS trainee Shuang Tang, M.D., Ph.D., is one of two 2016 NIH Women Scientist Advisors Scholars, chosen from among 90 female FARE winners.

NIEHS Visiting Fellow Shuang Tang, M.D., Ph.D., is being doubly honored this year for her groundbreaking study of embryonic stem cell differentiation and the critical role played by a certain group of enzymes involved in amino acid conversion (see text box).

This summer, Tang was named one of the 18 NIEHS winners of the prestigious 2017 National Institutes of Health (NIH) Fellows Award for Research Excellence (FARE). In September, she also joined an even more select group, as one of the two FARE winners to be chosen as a Women Scientist Advisors (WSA) Scholar from among the 90 women who won FARE awards.

Tang received special recognition Sept. 16 during the FARE awards at the NIH Research Festival. “And I will be invited to give a talk in the WSA Scholars Symposium next spring,” she said.

The award represents a great honor for Tang, her coauthors, and her primary mentor, Xaoling Li, Ph.D., head of the NIEHS Metabolism, Genes, and Environment Group. Her selection is also evidence of the excellence of the NIEHS training program. In the past six years alone, the 15 women honored by WSA included three from NIEHS, one of the highest rates of any NIH institute or center.

Quality training and attitude lead to success

Tang’s more than four years at NIEHS, first as a graduate student, and since 2013, as a visiting fellow, have been shaped by quality mentoring, supportive career development, and productive collaborations. Li actively encourages trainee career development in laboratory science and other career paths, as well as work on oral presentation skills.

Tang also thanked John Cidlowski, Ph.D., head of the NIEHS Signal Transduction Laboratory, for his support. She has further sought secondary mentors and collaborators at NIEHS outside her lab, including stem cell biologist Guang Hu, Ph.D., epigenetics specialist Paul Wade, Ph.D., and David Fargo, Ph.D., NIEHS scientific information officer.

Beyond NIEHS, Tang maintains collaborative relationships with scientists at Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine in China, where she earned her medical degree and completed her Ph.D. in a Graduate Partnerships Program between NIH and the university.

Co-authors on Tang’s award-winning study, one of five studies that feature her as first author, includes scientists from Cancer Therapeutics at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute in Canada and the Department of Biochemistry at Duke University Medical Center, where she is currently pursuing a Masters of Health Sciences in Clinical Research.

With her experience in clinical medicine, clinical trials, cancer metabolism, metabolic imaging, and laboratory studies in stem cell biology and signal transduction, Tang brings an impressive skill set to bear as she shapes her career as a physician scientist.

(Eddy Ball, Ph.D., is a contract writer with the NIEHS Office of Communications and Public Liaison.)

Insights into embryonic stem cell differentiation

Experiments involving embryonic stem cells (ESCs) have shown enormous promise for treating disease and regenerating damaged tissues and organs, although what drives their differentiation is not well understood. Tang’s award-winning research offers new insight into the role played by one member of a group of seven unique enzymes called sirtuins, SIRT1.

Tang and colleagues conducted a series of experiments using advanced analytical tools to study ESC maintenance and survival in mice. Using a mouse model deficient in SIRT1, they demonstrated that loss of the enzyme destabilizes a transcription factor known as Myc. This impairs an amino acid conversion process necessary for embryo development and survival.

The product of this amino acid conversion process is the naturally occurring compound S-adenosylmethionine (SAM), which has been used as a nutritional supplement in the U.S. and European countries. It shows promise as a treatment for inflammation and related diseases. This research provides some of the strongest evidence to date of its potential for influencing ESCs in profound ways. Importantly, this study is also the first demonstration of the critical role of a transcription factor in regulation of SAM production.

Tang S, Fang Y, Huang G, Xu X, Xu Q, Foley JF, Dowdy S, McBurney MW, Fargo DC, Guan Z, and Li X. 2017. “Metabolic and epigenetic regulation of mouse embryonic stem cell maintenance and embryogenesis by SIRT1.” In peer review for publication in a top scientific journal.

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