Lauren Albrecht Joins UC Irvine as an Assistant Professor

Lauren Albrecht

The UC Irvine School of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences has announced Lauren Albrecht, PhD, as an assistant professor for pharmaceutical sciences, effective October 1.

“We are pleased to welcome Lauren to our growing department,” said Richard Chamberlin, PhD, Professor and Chair of the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences. “Her exciting research on cancer metabolism complements that of other PharmSci faculty who are studying other aspects of cancer cell biology. Lauren’s work also aligns with a number of groups in the department that are developing methods for translating that information at the cellular level into new approaches for cancer prevention, treatment, or diagnosis.”

A fundamental question in cell biology is: How are nutrients acquired to maintain tissue homeostasis, and how are these processes hijacked by cancer cells to promote tumorigenesis? Albrecht’s research focuses on the signals that dictate which constituents of the cell are sacrificed and how these cellular decisions are coordinated with the metabolic demands of the entire tissue, specifically through the Wnt signaling pathway. Albrecht hopes to identify novel dietary and small-molecular therapeutic interventions for treating cancer and bone and kidney disease¾ by clarifying how the high metabolic requirements for aberrant tumor cell proliferation commandeer this molecular machinery.

“Metabolism is the origin of life,” Albrecht said. “I am thrilled to be studying metabolism at such an exciting time as new technological advances have revolutionized the field. Advancing our understanding of cancer cell metabolism has the promise to uncover novel points of intervention through metabolic and pharmacologic-based approaches or even diet.”

Albrecht earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of California, San Diego. While in the lab of structural biologist Dr. Stanley Opella at UCSD, Albrecht discovered her passion for translating atomic-level details into large-scale biological processes. This propelled her towards her doctoral studies in cellular biology at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University in the laboratory of Dr. Kathleen Green, examining the molecular basis of genetic skin and heart disease.

Albrecht’s thesis focused on desmoplakin, a protein essential for human life, ensuring tissue integrity by anchoring the cytoskeleton to cell junctions. Her work was crucial in identifying the protein arginine methylation as a critical regulator of cytosolic signaling pathways, a process previously thought to be used primarily for histone epigenetic regulation. This contributed to Albrecht also identifying a novel role for arginine methylation in regulating desmoplakin in arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC). ARVC is a leading genetic cause of cardiac death in young adults.

Albrecht is passionate about striking a balance between translational and fundamental research. In her postdoctoral studies, Albrecht focused on how metabolites themselves impact cellular signaling pathways, including methylation and protein degradation in lysosomes. This line of investigation uncovered new drivers of developmental processes in cancers derived from the skin, liver, and colon in the lab of Dr. Edward de Robertis. Outside of her lab, Albrecht worked closely with clinicians in the David Geffen School of Medicine to pursue the translational aspects of her work in patients with bone and kidney diseases.

Albrecht advocates for underrepresented communities and disabled scientists. In coming to UCI, she has a tremendous passion for training the next generation of scientists and advancing opportunities that improve equity in the sciences.

“I am thrilled to be joining the innovative group of investigators within the Pharmaceutical Sciences department and across campus,” Albrecht said.

“I look forward to working with the exceptional students and to building my group within such a collaborative and creative research community.”

Albrecht’s lab will apply an interdisciplinary approach to uncover the molecular basis of protein homeostasis, cell renewal and tissue remodeling. The vision of the Albrecht lab is to gain key insights into our understanding of metabolic networks to improve current treatments of human pathologies and organ deterioration that impact a healthy lifestyle.

Additional note: Are you interested in graduate study in chemical biology, metabolism, protein engineering, bioinformatics, degenerative disease, stem cells, cancer, or translational research? Professor Albrecht is recruiting students to join her lab. If interested, email her: l.albrecht@uci.edu.

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