My main website is the joint DNA lab (Dowell and Allen) website. These Allen Lab subpages are a supplement to the main website.
Empowering the next generation of predictive medicine
No two people are the same. Each person contains a genome (their own DNA). Your genome is not the same as anyone one else’s genome. You have polymorphisms. Genetic variation can cause many of the difference between individuals. Generally, we don't know which variations in the DNA causes which variations phenotype (observable characteristics). The long-term goal of my lab is to enable Medical Doctors unlock the power in the genome and enable proper treatments for individual based on there DNA. This is known as personalized medicine. If we use compuatil programs to help decide which drugs would be best for you this is knowns a predictive medicine. The Allen lab lab falls under the major umbrella topic of enabling personalized prevenative medicine.
The cost of reading DNA has decrease enormously, but we are still at the point that we are learning to read DNA! My lab is trying to decode the genome by studying RNA, the direct product made from the genome.
RNA-omics in human disorders and diseases
In 1854 there was a small cholera outbreak in London. At the time, the source of cholera was wrongly assumed to float in the air. Jon Snow, a young physician, took a novel approach to understanding what was causing the outbreak. In one of the first uses of data for tracking disease, he made a map and placed a dot over the homes of each of the affected. From this, the outbreak was tracked to a water pump utilized by the affected. This historical example demonstrates the power of data to aid in understanding and managing disease. In the next hundred years this trend will continue; data will be leveraged to improve human health.
Today, we are in an age of big data. In biology, we are now able to obtain large-scale molecular readouts cheaply and quickly. These “omics” techniques give us a deluge of data about a cell’s state. But we don’t need data, we need knowledge. Without knowledge, data is useless. We gain knowledge by asking the right questions about data. Just as Jon Snow shed light on the cholera outbreak by examining the data with a new perspective (a map), the current challenge in biology is to re-examine data on well studied diseases with a fresh perspective. In my opinion, collaborations and interdisciplinary projects, like those at BioFrontiers, are key to providing new ways to examine old problems.
In particular, my research focus is on RNA, the primary readout of the DNA. Like a Swiss army knife, RNA is the most versatile of molecules. RNA not only encodes for protein but also can be catalytic or regulatory. I have spent my entire career focused on RNA. I have demonstrated functions of transcription in acne (Allen 2003) determined key regulators of RNA processing in C. elegans (Cui 2008, Allen 2011) and annotated novel RNAs in both cancer (Allen 2012) and Down syndrome (unpublished). My grand vision is to determine how RNA varies in disease and to utilize this information for the good of human health.
Down Syndrome Research
A large majority of our Research focuses on Down Syndrome, which is caused by an extra copy of chromosome 21. Scientifically, we studies how DNA creates different cell types, and how alterations in DNA can alter the cells response to challenges. To better understand how DNA shapes life, Dr. Allen investigates the cellular process of reading DNA, known as transcription. She uses a wide range of skills to study transcription; including computational biology, molecular biology and big data analysis. Many changes in DNA can alter organism’s quality of life, and Dr. Allen's ultimate goal is to improve quality of human life.
Dr. Mary Ann Allen
Dr. Mary Ann Allen is a Research Assistant Professor at the University of Colorado Boulder. Her research focuses on understanding how DNA makes us who we are. To learn check out her Research Page.
Dr. Allen is also the Responsible Conduct of Research Coordinator for the University of Colorado, Boulder.