Dr. Kelly McNagny studies the CD34 family of molecules: CD34, Podocalyxin, and Endoglycan. First identified solely as markers of blood stem cells and blood vessels, McNagny’s research has shown that they are also present on a variety of other cell types in the body. In particular, they are found on cells that play an important role in inflammatory diseases like asthma, allergies, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, intestinal infections and cancer.
Previously supported by MSFHR as a Scholar, McNagny’s current focus is to determine whether these molecules are important in the development or progression of inflammatory disease. Developing mice that lack each of these molecules, then testing their susceptibility to disease, has shown that mice that that lack CD34 are strikingly resistant to asthma, allergies and other lung inflammatory diseases. McNagny has also shown that these mice are more resistant to colon cancer and to bacterial infections.
Inhibiting CD34 expression may be beneficial in preventing or treating these diseases. In studies of Podocalyxin, the second member of this family, it appears that this molecule is essential for normal kidney development and for regulating normal blood pressure. McNagny has also found that this protein is ‘turned on’ in a number of high-risk cancers (those with very poor outcomes). This molecule may be a particularly good diagnostic tool for identifying those high-risk cancers. He will further clarify how these molecules work under normal and disease conditions. The research could lead to new treatments for a variety of conditions and diseases.