Marshall’s Shakirov Wins Highly Competitive NIH R01 Grant to Continue Research

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Dr. Eugene Shakirov (pictured), an assistant professor of biological sciences at Marshall University, received a four-year, $1.18 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The National Institute of General Medical Sciences NIH R01 grant will support his research, “Genetic and Epigenetic Architecture of Natural Telomere Length Variation”.

The highly competitive fellowship is a renewal of his previous fellowship (2018-2022) and will continue to fund his research on telomeres, the physical ends of chromosomes that shorten with age.

Shakirov is the principal investigator and will work with a team of collaborators from the University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University with expertise in biochemistry, genomics and computational biology. An R01 grant is among the most competitive grants issued by the NIH, and Shakirov’s may be one of the largest to be received by Marshall’s Department of Biological Sciences.

“Dr. Shakirov joined Marshall’s Department of Biological Sciences in the fall of 2019, and despite the pandemic weighing on research, he has maintained an active and productive laboratory, including mentorship of graduate research students and undergraduate degree,” said Brian Antonsen, Chair of the Department of Biological Sciences. “This highly competitive grant, among the largest ever received by a member of our faculty, will allow him to continue his important work in understanding the critical processes under- underlying aging and disease.

Prior to joining the faculty at Marshall University in 2019, Shakirov worked as a research scientist at the University of Texas at Austin. He earned a doctorate in biochemistry from Texas A&M University and a doctorate in microbiology from Kazan State University in Russia.

According to Shakirov, telomeres in humans shorten with age, and their initial length at birth predetermines cell lifespan.

“The inability to properly regulate telomere length leads to cancer, premature aging, and age-related disorders. However, the exact genes establishing appropriate telomere length remain to be discovered, and their discovery could lead to advances substantial in aging and cancer research,” he said.

“Our research aims to discover new genes regulating telomere length using the unique biological and genomic resources of the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana,” Shakirov continued. “Because the mechanisms regulating telomere length are highly conserved between animals and plants, our data may provide important insights into the genetic variants predisposing individuals to telomere-associated stem cells, cancer, and diseases related to age.”

For more information about Marshall’s Department of Biological Sciences, visit www.marshall.edu/biology.

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