Grantee: Herbert Mathews

Herbert Mathews

Herbert Mathews, PhD

Cellular and Molecular Scientist
  • Loyola University Chicago

Herbert Mathews, Ph.D., leads a research team with co-investigator Linda Janusek, Ph.D., R.N., F.A.A.N., that seeks to identify the biological basis for the immune dysfunction that accompanies psychosocial distress. The premise of their work is that psychosocial distress contributes to cancer recurrence through neuroendocrine activation and dysregulation of immune function. If this premise proves to be true, then reductions in psychosocial distress would be expected to result in a normalization of immune function.

The human genome is packaged and condensed into nuclei six orders of magnitude smaller than the length of chromosomal DNA. Condensation is accomplished by packaging DNA around core nucleosome structures that are condensed into chromatin. The degree and nature of chromatin condensation determines which genes are repressed and which genes are transcribed. They have demonstrated histone epigenetic post-translational modifications to mark immune response genes that are adversely affected by psychological stress.

The purpose of this project is to evaluate epigenetic marks and nuclear architectural proteins as indices of the immune dysregulation resultant from the psychological stress associated with a diagnosis of breast cancer. Detection of stress-related chromatin organization by measurement of these epigenetic marks and architectural proteins will provide not only for a mechanistic understanding of the effects of stress upon chromatin structure but will also provide for a cytometric means by which to detect individuals at immunological risk due to psychological stress.

Understanding the pattern of chromatin organization associated with psychosocial distress may provide a means by which to identify those at risk for immune dysfunction.”