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Christos Polytarchou

Associate Professor

School of Science & Technology

Staff Group(s)


Reader in Health and Disease

Dr. Polytarchou's research aims to the characterization of the epigenetic landscape in inflammatory diseases and cancer. He is Module Leader on the MSc module, Molecular Biology (BIOL40072), also teaches on the BSc modules, Cell Signaling and Cancer (BIOL33111) and Antibody and DNA Technology (BIOL22011).

Career overview

After completing his PhD at the Department of Pharmacy, University of Patras, Greece, Dr Polytarchou moved to the Molecular Oncology Research Institute, Tufts Medical Center, Boston, and then Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School, Boston. Upon completion of his postdoctoral studies he worked as Assistant Professor at the Center for Systems Biomedicine, School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles, and in 2015 moved to his current position at NTU.

Research areas

Research in the Polytarchou laboratory focuses on the characterization of the links between the genome, the epigenome and non-coding RNAs and how these interactions contribute to the development of human disease, with special interest in mechanisms underlying the pathophysiology of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and cancer. The goal is to investigate the epigenetic landscape and highlight novel signalling pathways involved in the onset and progression of these diseases. The molecular characterization, serves as the basis for the discovery of disease-specific biomarkers and molecular targets, will lead to translational studies and novel therapeutic approaches. Current research projects include:

Therapeutically targeting microRNAs

MicroRNAs are small non-coding RNAs that have emerged as master gene regulators involved in various aspects of human disease. MicroRNAs harbour diagnostic and prognostic implications and may hold therapeutic value. The utility of microRNAs in diagnosis and disease activity evaluation is investigated in biofluids from patients with chronic diseases. The molecular pathways regulated by microRNAs in inflammation and cancer are assessed using bioinformatics approaches and cell-based assays. The potential of microRNA-based therapeutics, development of novel delivery methods, and drug repurposing as alternative to microRNA inhibitors, are investigated in animal models of the disease.

The epigenome in inflammation and cancer

Epigenetic factors can mediate interactions between the environment and the genome and lie at the heart of gene-specific control of the inflammatory response. Alterations in chromatin are central to the reprogramming of pathological gene expression and directly relevant to inflammatory diseases and cancer. Current studies investigate epigenetic factors and aim to the development of new therapeutic strategies, targeting epigenetic mechanisms or the pathways they control.

Long non-coding RNAs: from basic mechanisms to therapeutic applications

The biology of long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs), a potentially crucial layer of gene regulation, and their contribution to disease development is investigated combining molecular profiling with clinicopathological parameters. In vitro and in vivo approaches are employed for the functional characterization of lncRNAs. Their expression in a development- and cell type-specific manner, and their ability to target a specific subset of genes, make lncRNAs attractive targets for therapeutic applications with high specificity with limited off-target effects

External activity

Dr Polytarchou serves as a reviewer for numerous scientific journals and funding agencies.

Sponsors and collaborators

Dr Polytarchou’s work has been supported by funds from:

Leukemia and Lymphoma Society

Nanostring Technologies Inc.


THALES Programme

The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation at Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America

Dr. Polytarchou collaborates with highly esteemed researchers and clinicians in universities across Europe and USA.


Identification of Circulating MicroRNA Signatures in Crohn's Disease Using the Nanostring nCounter Technology. Oikonomopoulos A, Polytarchou C, Joshi S, Hommes DW, Iliopoulos D, Inflammatory Bowel Diseases, 2016, 22 (9), 2063-9.

Genome-wide DNA methylation profiling of peripheral blood mononuclear cells in irritable bowel syndrome. Mahurkar S, Polytarchou C, Iliopoulos D, Pothoulakis C, Mayer EA, Chang L, Neurogastroenterology & Motility, 2016, 28 (3), 410-22.

Assessment of circulating MicroRNAs for the diagnosis and disease activity evaluation in patients with ulcerative colitis by using the nanostring technology. Polytarchou C, Oikonomopoulos A, Mahurkar S, Touroutoglou A, Koukos G, Hommes DW, Iliopoulos D, Inflammatory Bowel Diseases, 2015, 21 (11), 2533-9.

MicroRNA214 is associated with progression of ulcerative colitis, and inhibition reduces development of colitis and colitis-associated cancer in mice. Polytarchou C, Hommes DW, Palumbo T, Hatziapostolou M, Koutsioumpa M, Koukos G, van der Meulen-de Jong AE, Oikonomopoulos A, van Deen WK, Vorvis C, Serebrennikova OB, Birli E, Choi J, Chang L, Anton PA, Tsichlis PN, Pothoulakis C, Verspaget HW, Iliopoulos D, Gastroenterology, 2015, 149 (4), 981-92.

Phosphoproteomics screen reveals akt isoform-specific signals linking RNA processing to lung cancer. Sanidas I, Polytarchou C, Hatziapostolou M, Ezell SA, Kottakis F, Hu L, Guo A, Xie J, Comb MJ, Iliopoulos D, Tsichlis PN, Molecular Cell, 2014, 53 (4), 577-90.

An integrated transcriptional regulatory circuit that reinforces the breast cancer stem cell state.  Polytarchou C, Iliopoulos D, Struhl K, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2012, 109 (36), 14470-5.

Lin28A and Lin28B inhibit let-7 microRNA biogenesis by distinct mechanisms. Piskounova E, Polytarchou C, Thornton JE, LaPierre RJ, Pothoulakis C, Hagan JP, Iliopoulos D, Gregory RI, Cell, 2011, 147(5), 1066-79.

Akt2 regulates all Akt isoforms and promotes resistance to hypoxia through induction of miR-21 upon oxygen deprivation. Polytarchou C, Iliopoulos D, Hatziapostolou M, Kottakis F, Maroulakou I, Struhl K, Tsichlis PN, Cancer Research, 2011, 71(13), 4720-31.

See all of Christos Polytarchou's publications...