The Näär Laboratory investigates the mechanisms by which genes are switched on or off and how these processes go awry in diseases such as cancers and cardiometabolic disorders.

The Role of Transcriptional and microRNA Regulation in Disease

Anders Naar, PhD
Anders Naar, PhD
MGH Research Scholar 2017-2022
MGH Research Scholar 2012-2017
Investigator, Center for Cancer Research
Professor of Cell Biology, Harvard Medical School

Our lab seeks to identify the molecular mechanisms that determine how specific genes are switched on and off, with emphasis on understanding the role of abnormal gene regulation in widespread human diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes and inflammatory liver disease, as well as rare diseases such as muscular dystrophies.

We aim to better understand the family of gene switches termed SREBPs, which are crucial regulators of cholesterol and fat metabolism. Our goal is to develop new treatment strategies for cancers that rely on irregular metabolism for growth and survival.

We have also recently uncovered tiny snippets of RNA (called microRNAs) that serve as key regulators of the genes involved in cholesterol/fat and energy metabolism. These genes include the SREBPs (mentioned above) as well as others. We are studying the roles of these microRNAs in a range of human diseases, including metabolic syndrome, which is a combination of diseases and conditions including:

  • Obesity
  • Insulin resistance
  • Fatty liver disease
  • Elevated trigylcerides
  • Decreased levels of HDL (“good” cholesterol)

Based on in-depth genetic and molecular insights of how these crucial gene switches and microRNAs work, we are developing new approaches for treating and preventing these costly and debilitating diseases associated with abnormal metabolism and cholesterol control.