Pediatric and adult brain cancer biology and therapeutics. Epigenetics, cancer metabolism, and signaling networks that mediate tumor progression. Uncovering the role of secreted cancer ligands in hematopoietic stem cell development and anti-tumor immunity. Nanotechnology to develop novel anti-cancer therapies. DNA damage, DNA damage response, and development of novel combination therapies for both adult and pediatric brain tumors, including novel immunotherapeutic approaches.
What is the molecular and cellular basis of malignant brain tumor invasion and growth? What are the essential mechanisms used by tumor cells to grow and to destroy normal brain tissue, thus killing the host? What are the first steps in the invasive process? Knowing this information, can we inhibit tumor growth?
Marta joined the Castro/Lowenstein Lab in January 2013. She received M.D. degree from the Medical Academy of Lublin, Poland. After moving to Michigan, she worked in Immunohistochemistry, the Department of Pathology. Later she moved to research and worked in several laboratories:
– Kresge Hearing Institute, Department Of Otolaryngology with R. Altschuler, Ph.D.
-Served as a Technical Director of the Morphology Core, Center For Organogenesis in the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology under Deborah Gumucio, Ph.D.
-Department of Pediatrics and Pulmonary Medicine with Marc Hershenson, M.D.
-Department of Internal Medicine and Genetics with Steven Weiss, M.D.
Marta is now the lab’s manager, and her responsibilities include all aspects of histology, immunohistochemistry, microscopy, including training other lab members in these procedures. She is also responsible for sample preparation, and imaging on Sigma 3View Scanning Electron Microscope and sectioning on a Leica Cryomacrotome. Additionally, Marta ensures that the lab and its members have the necessary supplies and materials to keep our busy lab functioning in top condition.
Melissa joined the Lowenstein-Castro Lab in 2021, after working 20 years at the University of Michigan Fetal Diagnostic and Treatment Center. Melissa received her bachelor’s in health service administration from Baker College. Melissa enjoys spending time with her family and 2 Bernese Mountain dogs, going on adventures throughout the United States. When she isn’t on any adventures, she loves to bake all kinds of goodies
Claire graduated from Virginia Tech with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry in 2020 and graduated from Cardiff University with a Master of Science degree in Cancer Biology and Therapeutics in 2021. Shortly afterward, she joined the Castro-Lowenstein Lab in February of 2022 as a lab technician and has been working on several different projects since she joined the lab.
Ford graduated from Grand Valley State University in the summer of 2021 with a B.S. in behavioral neuroscience and a minor in biology. There, he volunteered in the Linn lab where he studied regeneration of the optic nerve. Ford’s thesis work centered on alterations in brain entropy measures of predictive coding in memory reconsolidation and classical psychedelics. As a laboratory technician in the Castro/Lowenstein lab, he assists in animal surgery, monitoring, and histological analysis of the glioblastoma tumor microenvironment. The projects which Ford participates in attempt to identify actionable targets to disrupt tumoral invasion of surrounding tissue. Due to several family members suffering from traumatic brain injuries and neurodegenerative disorders, Ford plans to pursue a Ph.D. in neuroregeneration with an emphasis in stem cell therapies. In his free time, Ford enjoys gardening and backpacking
Brandon attended Saint Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas, to earn his Bachelor’s of Science in Biochemistry. While obtaining his undergraduate degree. he conducted research at Saint Mary’s University, UT Health San Antonio, and the University of Iowa. This research concerned the identification of protein function, a mechanistic link between aging and autoimmunity via AIRE and AIRE dependent gene expression, and the lack of protective memory immune responses against plasmodium infection, respectively. Following undergraduate graduation, Brandon matriculated into the Immunology Graduate Program at the University of Michigan in the Fall of 2019. Here, he rotated in Michal Olszewski’s and Marilia Cascalho’s laboratories before joining the Castro-Lowenstein laboratory. In the Olszewski lab, he studied the importance of neutrophil accumulation in the early clearance of the trehalose-6-phosphate deleted strain of C. neoformans. In the Cascalho lab, he studied the utilization of B cell Ig diversification machinery to generate a mutable vaccine for mutable viruses.
Brandon joined the Castro-Lowenstein laboratory in May of 2020, where he began by working with Dr. Mahmoud Alghamri to investigate the role of mutant isocitrate dehydrogenase (mIDH) induced G-CSF on the immune response to glioma. While working alongside Dr. Alghamri, Brandon developed a good understanding of glioma biology and the glioma induced immune response to develop his research project. Brandon is currently working to elucidate how mIDH alters the immune response to gliomas via alterations in the glioma microenvironment.
Anna is a PhD student in Biomedical Engineering. She did her undergraduate degree in Biophysics and Math also at the University of Michigan. Anna is working on understanding the mechanism behind cancer cell migration in oncostreams and defining and measuring physical interactions between cells and the extracellular matrix. Outside of the lab, she enjoys playing volleyball and tennis, hiking with her dog Rex, and reading.
Marcus earned a Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience from the University of Michigan in 2020 before joining the Castro-Lowenstein Lab as a Research Technician in May 2021. He will be applying to MD/PhD programs and has significant interest in Neurosurgery. His research interests include studying the role collagen plays in tumor progression as well as ion channel dysfunction and its impact in neurodegenerative disorders. In his free time, Marcus likes to hike, kayak, and ski.
Molly completed her B.S. and M.S. in Biology at the University of Michigan and Bowling Green State University, respectively. Her master’s research aimed to elucidate ecotoxicological effects of genetically modified crops on macroinvertebrates. She went on to work for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department studying chronic wasting disease in cervids. Subsequently, she obtained a position with the University of Wyoming Biocontainment Facility/Wyoming State Veterinary Laboratory performing research on select agents, as well as piloting a sequencing and bioinformatics laboratory section for the study and diagnosis of a multitude of veterinary pathogens.
Molly joined the Castro-Lowenstein laboratory in June 2022 as a research lab specialist, with a focus on using spatial phenotyping to explore the interplay between gliomas and the immune system.
Kaushik is a cancer biologist and holds a Ph.D. in drug-resistant cancer and therapy under the supervision of Prof. (Dr.) Soumitra Kumar Choudhuri, from Chittaranjan National Cancer Institute, Kolkata, India. He had completed his B.Sc and M.Sc. in Microbiology from the University of Calcutta, Kolkata, India and started working as a research fellow on bioinformatics supported by the Dept. of Biotechnology (DBT), Govt. of India at Bose institute before joining the Ph.D. During his Ph.D. he has investigated the role of reactive oxygen (ROS) and nitrogen species (RNS) mediated different signaling pathways in the induction of apoptosis in T-acute lymphoblastic leukemia and in myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs) involving mitochondrial pathways, p53, and cellular metabolism, to overcome multi drug resistance in leukemia. He was awarded Research fellowships in Life Science by the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR), India, and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), India, to work on multi-drug resistance cancer.
In February of 2020, Kaushik joined the Castro-Lowenstein laboratory as a postdoctoral research fellow to study the pro and anti-tumor mechanisms mediated by genes involved in senescence, autophagy, DNA damage repair (DDR), and immune mechanisms of gliomas. Currently, he is working on neuro immuno-oncology which involves uncovering the role of the mIDH1, CXCR4/CXCL12 signaling and DDR signaling in glioma. His goal is to establish the basis of a new treatment regimen for gliomas based on manipulating the immune, DNA damage repair, senescence, and autophagic mechanisms in glioma. Ultimately, this novel immunotherapeutic approach could be translated into the clinic in Phase I trials for glioma patients.
Faisal completed his B.S in Biotechnology from JMI, New Delhi, India. He then pursued an education at the Interdisciplinary Biotechnology Unit, AMU, India, first with an M.S in Biotechnology under the supervision of Prof. M. Saleemuddin, followed by a Ph.D. in Molecular Immunology under the supervision of Prof. M. Owais, investigating the role of cytokines in the regulation of host immune responses during infection. In another project, he investigated the role of biomimetically synthesized 5-FU-based nanoparticles: a novel drug delivery system to treat skin fibrosarcoma in experimental murine models.
Faisal joined the Castro-Lowenstein team in March 2019 as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow to elucidate the innate immune mechanisms of malignant brain tumors. His research demonstrated the existence of a novel miR1983-TLR7-IFNβ circuit that licenses NK cells to kill glioma cells and is under the control of galectin-1. The team recently introduced the concept of oncostreams to elucidate the functions and molecular mechanism underlying the mesenchymal transformation of self-organized dynamic patterns of malignant gliomas. Faisal’s specific research in this project focuses on unraveling the role of collagen signaling and its receptors in glioma oncostreams. Faisal is also investigating the molecular mechanisms underlying self-organization and networks in brain tumors to uncover novel therapeutic targets by employing intravital imaging using laser scanning multi-photon microscopy and ex vivo time-lapse confocal microscopy on 3D explants models of glioma. The long-term goal of his research project is to determine potential targets that control brain tumors’ mesenchymal transformation and their interactions with the tumor microenvironment that contribute to intra-tumoral heterogeneity and glioma aggressiveness, and ultimately translate these experimental findings into future clinical therapies.
Marilú is a Biologist and holds a PhD in Biological Chemistry from University of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Her thesis was conducted in the Laboratory of Molecular Endocrinology and Signal Translation at Institute of Biology and Experimental Medicine (IByME) under Dr. Carolina Mondillo, where she studied the biology of Leydig cell tumors, and the interaction of the histaminergic system and vitamin D, allowing to propose Histamine receptor 4 agonist in combination with calcitriol as therapeutic target. Her follow-up research, holding a Postdoctoral fellow position, focused on studying the negative impact of antihistaminic (targeting histamine receptors H1 and H2) in normal physiology.
In October of 2020, Marilú joined the Castro-Lowenstein Laboratory to study the role of LAIR-1 in mouse models of Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM). This collagen receptor has showed to be present in gliomas cells as well as in infiltrating cells. Employing conditional transgenics for LAIR-1, Marilú will attempt to describe the mechanism in which this receptor is involved in tumor developing as well as its role in tumor cells and in infiltrating cells. Ultimately, her works aims to generate a gene therapy approach and/or an antibody-based therapy targeting LAIR-1, that could lead to innovating treatments for GBM.
Ziwen received a PhD in Biomedical Engineering from University of Michigan. His thesis was targeting on the branched chain amino acid metabolism in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma microenvironment. His research demonstrated the TGF-β/SMAD5 axis directly targets BCAT1 in cancer-associated fibroblasts to secrete branched-chain keto acids. Ziwen joined the Castro-Lowenstein Laboratory in 2021 to study the role of myeloid cells in IDH-mutant glioma.
Anzar completed his B.S in Biochemistry from AMU, Aligarh, India. He continued his education at Interdisciplinary Biotechnology Unit, AMU, India, first with an M.S in Biotechnology under the supervision of Prof. Asad U khan, followed by a Ph.D. in Molecular Immunology under the supervision of Prof. M. Owais, investigating the role of cytokines in establishment and survival of intracellular pathogen in the host. He was awarded Research fellowships in Life Science by the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR), India, and Dept. of Biotechnology (DBT), Govt. of India , India.
Anzar joined the Castro-Lowenstein team in January 2021 as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow to study the pro and anti-tumor mechanisms mediated by genes involved in autophagy, DNA damage repair (DDR), and immune mechanisms of gliomas. Currently, he is working on neuro immuno-oncology which involves uncovering the role of the mIDH1, CXCR4/CXCL12, and DDR signalling in glioma. His goal is to establish the basis of a new treatment regimen for gliomas based on manipulating the immune, DNA damage repair, and autophagic mechanisms in glioma, leading to novel immunotherapeutic approaches which could be translated into the clinical trials.
Nigel graduated from Loyola University Chicago with a Bachelor of Science in Molecular & Cellular Neuroscience and Biology in 2022. During his undergrad, Nigel volunteered in the Delgado Lab where he studied molecules in the postsynaptic density which play key roles in the synaptic plasticity of excitatory neurons in the hippocampus. He joined the Castro-Lowenstein lab in April 2023. He is particularly interested in acquiring a deeper understanding of the underlying mechanisms of neural disease, degeneration, and regeneration as well as gliomas. In his free time, Nigel enjoys working out, spending time with friends, and listening to world music.