Lynne Bemis

Co-Director, Native American Mentoring Program
Adjunct Professor, The Hormel Institute

Research Summary

The complex role of extracellular RNA (exRNA) in health and disease is just beginning to be elucidated. Previously it was thought that RNA molecules could not survive in the circulation or in extracellular locations. However, with improved methods for detecting small RNAs, it has become clear that microRNAs and other small RNA molecules exist in all biological fluids and are expected to play a role very much like cytokines thereby regulating many events in both health and disease. My research focus includes projects on identifying novel RNA molecules as biomarkers for earlier cancer detection, specifically in ovarian cancer. We have identified tRNA fragments in the urine of ovarian cancer patients and are currently exploring the role of these molecules in ovarian cancer cells and determining their ability to distinguish advanced stage ovarian cancer patients from less aggressive disease. In addition, we are developing novel molecular methods to study tRNA fragments (tRFs). These are "fragments that function" and are difficult to study with current methodology because they are a part of a mature tRNA. They are actively processed from mature tRNAs and may have many functions, although the function that we have confirmed, is much like a microRNA. We have shown that a specific tRF, tRF5-Glu is capable of binding to the BCAR3 (breast cancer anti-estrogen) mRNA and blocking expression. Another aspect of extracellular RNA that we study is the mode of their extracellular transport. We have developed a novel method to pull various small noncoding RNAs out from the media, once the media is depleted of a specific noncoding RNA it is possible to study the loss of that RNA molecule on cells grown in hanging drop cultures. In addition, to our work in cancer biology, we are also interested in the role of small RNAs in infectious disease. We are currently studying small RNAs expressed in patients with Lyme disease and in animal models. The field of small RNAs is rapidly expanding and we expect to continue these studies in additional disease sites and processes.

Teaching Summary

My teaching expertise for medical students includes molecular genetics, precision medicine, health disparities, cancer biology, biochemistry and basic science concepts. I frequently facilitate problem-based learning (PBL) for first and second year medical students. Recently I taught the graduate student course entitled, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Natural Sciences. I have mentored numerous students including, undergraduate and graduate students, as well as medical students, and faculty.


PhD, University of New Hampshire
Major: Biochemistry
BS, University of New Hampshire
Major: Biology

Fellowships, Residencies, and Visiting Engagements

Postdoctoral Fellow, Fellowship
AMC Cancer Research Center

Honors and Recognition

Innovations in Science Award, University of Minnesota Medical School
Team Science Research Award, Biomedical Sciences, University of Minnesota Medical School Duluth Campus
The Hedwig van Ameringen Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine Program for Women
Cole Family Research Award
Harry J. Lloyd Charitable Trust Award for Melanoma
Harry J. Lloyd Charitable Trust Award for Melanoma
Chancellor’s Diversity Recognition Award, University of Colorado Denver
Harry J. Lloyd Charitable Trust Award for Melanoma
CU President’s Teaching and Learning Collaborative, University of Colorado System
Outstanding Teaching Award, Division of Medical Oncology, University of Colorado
Health Disparities Training for Medical Students, University of Colorado President's Initiative Fund
Butcher Award Principal Investigator Denver Campus
Milheim Foundation Research Award
AMC Cancer Research Center Internal Grant
Genetic Education for Native Americans University of Colorado and American Cancer Society Research Award
Using the Yeast Two-Hybrid System to study NM23 University of Colorado and American Cancer Society Research Award
Dissertation Fellowship, University of New Hampshire
Graduate Student Travel Award, Genetics Society of America
Grant to attend Hurricane Island Outward Bound Leadership
Mentor of the Year award , University of Minnesota Medical School
Rosie Award (mentoring category) , UMN School of Medicine, Duluth, MN

Media Appearances

University of Minnesota Duluth Medical campus Alumni News Letter, First Annual 2017-2018
Collaborating to Conquer Cancer

Professional Memberships

University of Minnesota Cancer Center
Grants and Patents

Grants and Patents


Patents Methods and Compositions for Treating Cancer. Issued: 2011
Detection of MicroRNAs with gold nanoparticles.
Identifying BRAF mutations in an overwhelmingly wild type background.
MicroRNA Regulation in Melanoma.
A panel of overexpressed biomarkers identifies non-small cell lung carcinoma (NSLCLC) by qRT-PCR.



Department of Biomedical Sciences
223 SMed
1035 University Drive
Duluth, MN 55812