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Sun Hye Kim Leads Recognition in Graduate Student Research Symposium

From the NC State Graduate School

In this year’s NC State University Graduate Student Research Symposium, first-place honors in the Life Sciences category was awarded to Sun Hye Kim for her winning poster entitled, “Cyclin-Dependent Kinase 4 levels affects the number of hair follicle Stem Cells in mouse epidermis.”

A student in the Department of Molecular Biomedical Sciences at College of Veterinary Medicine, Kim is originally from South Korea. She earned her B.S. in Biochemistry at Kyungpook National University (Daegu, South Korea). She then went on to complete her Master’s degree in Biochemistry at Seoul National University’s School of Medicine. After getting her master’s degree she decided to earn her Ph.D. in the United States.

Kim decided to attend NC State for her Ph.D. Not only has she been “. . . greatly impressed with the NC State’s program. . .,” but she earned a Provost Award when she was admitted as a new student. And she is a new student no longer! She is currently in her third year in the Comparative Biomedical Sciences program, with a concentration in cell biology, and expects to graduate in May 2012.

The focus of Kim’s graduate research, under the mentorship of advisor Dr. Marcelo Rodriguez-Puebla, is Cyclin-dependent kinase (CDK4), one of a group of protein kinases that are involved in the regulation of the cell cycle. The mutated form of CDK4 has been found in “. . . familial melanoma, amplified or overexpressed in human gliomas, sporadic breast carcinomas and sarcomas.”

“Our group has previously demonstrated that CDK4 ablation (CDK4 knock-out) inhibits chemically-induced mouse skin papillomas, whereas forced expression of CDK4 in mouse epidermis (K5-CDK4) accelerates malignant progression to Squamous Cell Carcinomas (SCC).” She further states, however, that the mechanisms by which chandes in CDK4 expression levels control skin tumorigenesis have not been established. Her group would like to take their investigation further to discover how CDK4 “. . . deletion or overexpression affects tumorigenesis by altering the characteristic and/or the number of Keratinocytes Stem Cells.”

Kim says that stem cell research is currently a very hot topic and offers much hope for medical advancement especially in regenerative medicine, with billions of dollars being invested. She hopes that she will be able to discover the correlation between CDK4 and stem cell and target for carcinogenesis. So far, data indicate that changes in CDK4 expression affect the asymmetric cell division of Keratinocytes Stem Cell population. As such, CDK4 overexpression favors an increase in the transit amplifying (TA) cell pool and the opposed, an increased keratinocytes stem cell pool, is observed with loss of CDK4. In regards to tumorigenesis, these data provide a strong correlation between the number of transit amplifying or progenitor cells with the susceptibility to papilloma development and progression. This may have large implication because if inhibiting CDK4 may help to maintain a stem-cell pool, which then can be used to develop human stem cell lines from skin or other organs so that therapy no longer relies on human embryonic stem cells.

Kim created a poster for the April meeting of the American Association of Cancer Research, and she was able to use her experience from her symposium presentation. She said that the symposium experience “. . . helped me to gain an overall vision of my research and to present it in a way that could be understandable to people from other fields.”

When she’s not blazing trails in new stem cell research, Kim enjoys a variety of activities. Her favorite things to do are watching movies, travelling, shopping, hiking, and baking.

Posted July 28, 2010