WeiWei Dang, PhD

  • Recruited to: Baylor College of Medicine
  • Recruited from: The University of Pennsylvania
  • Award: First-Time, Tenure-Track Faculty Member

Dr. Weiwei Dang received his B.S. degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from Peking University in Beijing, China in 1999 and went to the U.S. to pursue his graduate education in Southern Illinois University School of Medicine. He was trained with Dr. Blaine Bartholomew in the department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, where he applied chemical photoaffinity labeling and peptide mapping techniques to the study of domain interactions between ATP-dependent chromatin remodeling complexes and nucleosomes. His work helped to clarify a puzzling question in the field at the time: “Where does the molecular motor of the chromatin remodeling ATPases interact with the nucleosome?” His findings greatly improved our understanding of how these molecular motors propel the movement of nucleosome on DNA and provided insightful guidance for future pharmaceutical applications exploiting this class of conserved enzymes. These results were published in four papers on journals such as The EMBO Journal, Molecular and Cellular Biology, and Journal of Biological Chemistry. In 2006, he earned his Ph.D. degree in Microbiology, Biochemistry, and Molecular Biology.

Dr. Dang received postdoctoral training with Dr. Shelley L. Berger at the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia from 2006 to 2009, then at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania from 2009 to 2012 after Dr. Berger relocated her laboratory. His postdoctoral research focused on epigenetic regulation mechanisms of aging. Using the yeast replicative aging as a model, he discovered a chromatin hallmark of aging, proved that changes in epigenetic markings can alter lifespan, identified a novel aging regulation pathway controlled by a well-known aging regulator Sir2, and helped to establish a paradigm that aging associate with dysregulation of chromatin. This study was published in a landmark article in Nature in 2006. He developed novel high-throughput unbiased lifespan screens in order to identify new chromatin targets and histone modifications during aging. He expanded his research to systems biology and applied quantitative proteomic approaches to study the process of aging. He also collaborated with many groups on projects concerning other aging models, various other aging regulation pathways, as well as small molecular inhibitors of key enzymes in these pathways. His work and fruitful collaborations resulted in six additional publications in journals including Cell, The EMBO Journal, and Biochemistry.

Dr. Dang’s future research will focus on how chromatin and epigenetic mechanisms regulating aging can be applied to cancer prevention and treatment. Aging is the single greatest risk factor for most types of cancer. Although it seems inevitable, aging can be slowed down or delayed by well-defined intervention programs and genetic alterations in model organisms. How and to what extent such aging defying intervention methods can be utilized in preventing and treating cancer remains to be explored. He plans to use state of the art technologies to study genomics, epigenomics, and proteomics during aging and cancer development in order to identify novel pathways that regulate aging and cancer development, and to take advantage of powerful biochemistry and genetics methods to narrow down the mechanisms, by which aging and cancer development are regulated. His research will provide valuable insights into novel strategies for cancer prevention and new therapeutic targets for cancer treatment.