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Natasha J. Caplen, Ph.D.

Portait Photo of Natasha Caplen
Genetics Branch
Head, Gene Silencing Section
Senior Scientist
Center for Cancer Research
National Cancer Institute
Building 37, Room 6128A
Bethesda, MD 20892

Caplen's Video Cast

Produced and edited by Natalie Giannosa


Dr. Caplen obtained her Ph.D. from the University of London (Kings College Hospital Medical School) for studies on the genetics of type I diabetes and its complications. Dr. Caplen's Postdoctoral training began at St Mary's Hospital Medical School, Imperial College, where she focused on the development of gene therapy approaches for cystic fibrosis (CF) during which she was involved in some of the first pre-clinical and clinical studies of cationic lipid mediated gene therapy for CF. In 1996, Dr. Caplen came to the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) at NIH as a Visiting Fellow, where she initially conducted studies investigating hybrid viral vector systems for the delivery of genes. It was while at NHGRI that Dr. Caplen developed a research interest in the newly identified gene silencing mechanism, RNA interference (RNAi) leading to her studies that help establish the presence of RNAi in mammalian cells. Dr. Caplen joined CCR, NCI in 2004 as a Senior Scientist, where she heads the Gene Silencing Section initially within the CCR Office of Science and Technology Partnerships and more recently within the Genetics Branch.


RNA interference (RNAi) is a sequence-specific post-transcriptional gene silencing mechanism induced by small double-stranded RNA molecules. Following development of a Drosophila based cell culture model of RNAi and studies showing that RNAi can be used to inhibit invertebrate viral replication, in 2001 I showed, along with others, that synthetic RNAs based on the structural characteristics of small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) identified in Drosophila and C. elegans, could induce a sequence specific decrease in gene expression. I went on to investigate the use of RNAi to inhibit the expression of transcripts associated with a dominant gene disorder and in 2003 published the first RNAi microarray platform in collaboration with the Dr. Sypros Mousses. Since joining NCI to establish the Gene Silencing Section in 2004 the research of the group has developed to focus on three broad areas. (1) An improved understanding of the RNAi mechanism, including the role of miRNAs in controlling gene expression, (2) the development of optimized RNAi based resources, and protocols and assays using them and (3) the application of RNAi to cancer and cancer related processes and the use of RNAi to investigate the mechanism of action of anticancer drugs and their interaction with specific molecular target(s).

This page was last updated on 6/7/2013.