Junying Yuan
Tumor biology


I have made several critical contributions to our understanding of apoptosis and necroptosis, which regulate the survival of mammalian cells.

As a graduate student at the Harvard Medical School, working in the laboratory of H. Robert Horvitz at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, I helped uncover the first described mechanism of programmed cell death in the nematode C. elegans. Later, while at the Cardiovascular Research Center, Massachusetts General Hospital, I demonstrated that an enzyme later named caspase-1 is a functional homologue of C. elegans cell death gene product Ced-3 and that its inhibition can block neuronal cell death. After moving to the Department of Cell Biology at Harvard Medical School, where I am today Professor of Cell Biology, my lab discovered and analyzed necroptosis, a regulated necrotic cell death mechanism. This disproved the prevailing belief that necrosis is a kind of unregulated, passive cell death. My lab continues to probe cell death and is exploring strategies to reduce the lethal accumulation of misfolded proteins within cells. A small molecule inhibitor of RIPK1 kinase (Nec-1) we discovered is now in preparation for a clinical trial for neurodegenerative disease.

I have received many honors and awards for my work and am a Fellow of both the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Association for Advancement of Sciences.

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