Texas Biomed Staff

Joanne E. Curran

Associate Scientist | Genetics
Phone: 210-258-9828
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Summary

Curran’s research focuses on dissecting diseases such as type 2 diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease in the general population, to gain an insight into the biological pathways involved in disease pathogenesis. She has two ongoing research projects analyzing genes whose expression levels correlate with diabetes and obesity phenotypes. By sequencing, her lab is identifying cis-regulated variants that influence the expression levels of a gene, and then validating results using functional molecular analyses.

A large focus of complex disease genetics is on the importance of rare variants for disease risk. In recent years, her research has changed direction to take advantage of rapidly emerging technologies, and it now focuses on the identification of functional rare variation. Using a combination of next-generation sequencing and the San Antonio Family Study (SAFS) cohort, Curran and colleagues are identifying functional variants influencing diabetes, obesity and heart disease. As part of an NIH funded Type 2 Diabetes Consortium, they are obtaining whole genome sequences for a thousand SAFS members. Additionally, they are performing exome sequencing on other SAFS members in their own studies and in partnership with the pharmaceutical industry. This work will lead to the rapid identification of novel therapeutic targets, and will provide valuable insights into disease pathways and gene interactions within these pathways.

Curran recently obtained internal funds to support a pilot project to investigate the role of the brain and neural networks in obesity, using functional neuroimaging. In the study, subjects will undergo brain imaging (by MRI) and while in the scanner will receive flavored milkshake through a feeding device. Curran will then look for differences in activation of brain regions during receipt of milkshake compared to a tasteless solution. Brain images, combined with whole genome sequence, will be used to identify specific genes and variants that influence the brain’s response to food stimulus and obesity.

Other research interests include the mitochondrial genome and its involvement in disease risk. Curran also collaborates with other scientists on metabolic syndrome in adolescents, the effect of early growth patterns on obesity, and identifying genes influencing the development of heart disease, prediabetes, depression and schizophrenia.

Education

Doctoral Degree: Molecular Genetics

Griffith University Gold Coast , Australia
Dissertation:

Novel Genotypes Associated with Sporadic Breast Cancer Development


Master's Degree: Honours Health Science

Griffith University Gold Coast , Australia
Thesis:

Molecular Analysis of Breast Cancer Susceptibility Genes


Bachelor's Degree

Griffith University Gold Coast , Australia

Postdoctoral Work

International Diabetes Institute and Human Gene Discovery Program ChemGenex Pharmaceuticals, Victoria Australia (01/2002 - 02/2005)

Genomics Research Centre, Griffith University Gold Coast (01/2001 - 01/2002)

Research Focus

The primary focus of our research is the identification of genes influencing common complex diseases.

Awards and Honors

Recipient, San Antonio Business Journal 40 Under 40 Award (2007)

Winner, Young Investigator Award, Genomics of Hyperglycaemia Symposium (2006)

Recipient, Illumina User Group Meeting Travel Award (2006)

Recipient, Gold Coast City Council Breast Cancer Research Scholarship (1998-2000)

Recipient, Australian Society for Medical Research Travel Award (1998)

Publications

High-dimensional endophenotype ranking in search for major depression risk genes

Glahn DC, Curran JE, Winkler AM, Carless MA, et al.
Biol Psychiatry 71: 6-14, 2012
PubMed ID: 21982424

Large scale mitochondrial sequencing in Mexican Americans suggests a reappraisal of Native American origins

Kumar S, Bellis C, Zlojutro M, Melton PE, Blangero J, Curran JE
BMC Evol Biol 11: 293, 2011
PubMed ID: 21978175

Grants

R01 DK079169 Curran (PI), 07/01/07-06/30/12
NIH/NIDDK: Identification of Regulatory Variants in Novel Candidate Genes for Diabetes    The major goal of this project is to use an integrative genomics approach to identify potentiall functional regulatory variants in novel candidate genes for diabetes risk in a largefamily based study. Role: Principal Investigator

1 R01 DK082610-01 (Curran)    07/01/09 - 06/30/11
NIH/NIDDK
Expression-Based Empirical Candidate Genes Influencing Body Mass Index
The major goal is to use an integrative genomics approach to identify potentially functional regulatory variants in novel candidate genes for BMI risk in a large family based study.

R01 DK079195 Jenkinson (PI), 08/15/08-05/31/13
NIH/NIDDK: Identification of Prediabetes Genes by Expression LInkage Analysis
The major goal of this project is to identify genes influencing diabetes susceptibility, using gene expression. Role: Co-Investigator, subcontract to Texas Biomed, PI Texas Biomed

R01 HD053685 Demerath (PI), 09/27/06-07/31/11
NIH/NICHD: The Genetics of Infant Growth and Later Obesity
The major goal is to localize and identify genes involved in infant growth and examine their pleiotropic effects on adult obesity. Role: Co-Investigator, subcontract to Texas Biomed, PI Texas Biomed

P01 HL045522 Blangero (PI), 04/01/08-03/31/13
NIH/NHLBI: Genetics of Atherosclerosis in Mexican Americans
Project 1: Genetic Analysis of CVD Risk Factors (Subproject directed by Dr. Almasy)
The major goal of this subproject is to map and characterize QTLs related to CVD risk. Role: Co-Investigator

Project 2: Lipoprotein-related CVD Risk Factors: QTL Identification (Subproject directed by Dr. Mahaney)
The major goal of this subproject is to prioritize and identify genes contributing to variation in lipoprotein, oxidative stress and inflammation traits. Role: Co-Investigator

R01 MH061622 Amlasy (PI), 06/01/08-05/30/13
NIH/NIMH: A Neurobehavioral Family Study of Schizophrenia
The major goal is to identify genes involved in the development of schizophrenia. Role: Co-Investigator

R01 HL070751 Almasy (PI), 03/15/07-11/30/10
NIH/NHLBI: Genetic Analysis of Idiopathic Thrombosis
The major goal of this project is to identify the variants influencing hemostasis phenotypes. Role: Co-Investigator

R01 HL080149 Goring (PI), 07/01/06-06/30/10
NIH/NHLBI: Genetics of Infection and its Relationship with CVD Risk
The major goal of this project is to investigate the genetic factors involved in regulating susceptibility to infection and in mediating the effects of infection on inflammation and risk of CVD. Role: Co-Investigator