Peak Center Lab

In the Baskin Research Lab, our primary research interest is the human primary tumor cell archive; MP-MUS, a novel gliomal-specific, mitochondrially-targeted chemotherapeutic; and nanosyringes for selective delivery of chemotherapy and to poison cancer cell drug pumps.

Human Primary Tumor Cell Archive

Over the past five years, we have developed a tumor bank from patients with brain tumors.  These include large collections of glioblastomas, anaplastic astrocytomas and pituitary tumors. Each tumor is separated and stored in four different ways.

1)  One portion is fixed, waxed and sliced in the form of histopathological slide specimens which can be analyzed in a number of ways.

2) Another portion is placed in DNA/RNA preservation medium and stored frozen for future studies of the RNA and/or DNA of the cell.

3) A third portion is grown in cell culture medium and the cells are harvested after 3‒4 passages in cryoprotectant and stored at 77K°. 

4) The final portion of the tumor is placed in cancer stem cell medium and cancer progenitor/stem cells are grown and archived in cryoprotectant.

This growing and unique archive will allow researchers here and throughout the world to examine the nature of brain cancer at the genomic and cell physiological levels. It will serve as the basis of high-throughput chemotherapeutic screening. We will examine the efficacy of different drugs, successfully used in other cancers, on primary brain cancers.

The long-term goals of Dr. Baskin’s laboratory are to elucidate the DNA mechanisms in various types of neurological disease and to develop novel diagnostics and treatments for primary brain tumors and autistic spectrum disorder. Dr. Baskin has recently developed methodologies to quantify the levels of different types of DNA damage and of labeled antibody staining in the field of fluorescence microscopy, using a new type of labeled tissue phantoms. His laboratory has introduced innovative techniques that allow the quantification of five different types of DNA damage: blunt-ended breaks, overhanging breaks, 3'OH ends and nicks, 3'PO4 ends and nicks, and also damaged/oxidized DNA bases. These techniques are in the process of being patented.

In addition, and in conjunction with these tools for examining DNA damage, his research group is pursuing mitochondrially-targeted chemotherapeutic agents. These pro-drug agents are activated by enzyme systems known to be up-regulated in certain cancers. The active drug then attacks mitochondrial DNA and mitochondrial RNA, causing loss of mitochondria and cell death. In collaboration with Dr. James Tour, of the Smalley Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology at Rice University, Dr. Baskin's group is investigating the use of nanoscale carbon clusters in numerous biomedical applications, including as a means to deliver chemotherapeutic agents that are targeted specifically to cancer cells, as well as use as cellular protective agents.

The relationship between environmental pollutants and autism is also a major research topic being pursued by Dr. Baskin and his group. They have been evaluating the role of possible causative agents, including the classical toxin, organic mercury, which he has shown to have high toxicity in a subgroup of autistic individuals. A second class of causative agents being investigated by his group is hormone disrupting agents, such as the agro-chemicals DDT and Atrazine. The lab’s preliminary data suggests that there is a major difference in the response of cells from autistic individuals, compared to external controls. 

David Baskin, MD

Kenneth R. Peak Presidential Distinguished Chair, Department of Neurosurgery
Professor of Neurosurgery
Houston Methodist Academic Institute

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