Keith Keene

Title: Assistant Professor
Area of Study: Health disparities, genetics of complex diseases (e.g. diabetes and stroke)
Phone: (252) 328-1838 (Biology) (252) 744-5254 (CHD)
Fax: (252) 328-4178 (Biology) (252) 744-2634 (CHD)
Office:N209 Howell Science Complex
Medical Pavilion Suite 9
Address:East Carolina University
Department of Biology
Mailstop 551
Greenville, NC 27858

Center for Health Disparities
1800 W. 5th Street,
Medical Pavilion Suite 9
Mailstop 643
Greenville, NC 27834


Ph.D.: Molecular Medicine, Wake Forest University, 2007.
B.S.: Biology, North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University, 2003

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Research Program

Diabetes is a global epidemic affecting more than 25 million people in the United States, alone. Diabetes related complications such as nephropathy, neuropathy, cardiovascular disease and stroke, are severe public health concerns. Environmental as well as genetic risk factors contribute to the development and progression of the disease. Over the past eight years, my research has focused on identifying and evaluating genetic risk factors of complex diseases, specifically type 1 and type 2 diabetes. More recently, I have collaborated on genetic and epigenetic studies of ischemic (and recurrent) stroke, resulting in the successful funding of an American Heart Association Career Development Award. My research experience includes using genetic, epigenetic, statistical and molecular biology methodologies, such as next generation DNA sequencing and high throughput genotyping to identify risk variants, implementing statistical software packages to test for association in family, case-control, and admixed populations, and performing functional assays to determine the biological relevance for associated variants. The identification of genetic risk factors will result in functional studies and potentially countless opportunities for multidisciplinary collaborations with experts outside of the particular disease field to further explore these findings in either animal models or clinical trials. With this understanding, more effective treatment regimens could be applied, pre‑symptomatic individuals would be identified that might benefit from early intervention, and new drugs could be devised to alter the function of important metabolic pathways.


Cheng YC, Anderson CD, Bione S, Keene K, Maguire JM, Nalls M, Rasheed A, Zeginigg M, Attia J, Baker R, Barlera S, Biffi A, Bookman E, Brott TG, Brown Jr. RD, Chen F, Chen WM, Ciusani E, Cole JW, Cortellini L, Danesh J, Doheny K, Ferrucci L, Franzosi MG, Frossard P, Furie KL, Golledge J, Hankey GJ, Hernandez D, Holliday EG, Hsu FC, Jannes J, Ayeesha Kamal A, Khan MS, Kittner SJ, Koblar SA, Lewis M, Lincz L, Lisa A, Matarin M, Moscato P, Mychaleckyj JC, Parati EA, Parolo S, Pugh E, Rost NS, Schallert M, Schmidt H, Scott RJ, Sturm JW, Yadav S, Zaidi M, GARNET Collaborative Research Group, Boncoraglio GB, Levi CR, Meschia JF, Rosand J, Sale MM, Saleheen D, Schmidt R, Sharma P, Worrall BB, Mitchell BD, on behalf of the International Stroke Genetics Consortium. Are myocardial infarction-associated single nucleotide polymorphisms associated with ischemic stroke? Stroke. 2012, 43(4):980-986.

Keene KL, Quinlan AR, Hou X, Hall IM, Mychaleckyj JC, Onengut-Gumuscu S, Concannon P. Evidence for two independent associations with type 1 diabetes at the 12q13 locus. Genes Immun.2012, 13(1):66-70. PMCID: PMC3285513

Leak TS, Langefeld CD, Keene KL, Gallagher CJ, Lu L, Mychaleckyj JC, Rich SS, Freedman BI, Bowden DW, Sale MM. Chromosome 7p linkage and association study for diabetes related traits and type 2 diabetes in an African-American population enriched for nephropathy. BMC Med Genet. 2010, 11(1):22.PMCID: PMC2829011

Leak TS, Perlegas PS, Smith SG, Keene KL, Hicks PJ, Langefeld CD, Mychaleckyj JC, Rich SS, Kirk JK, Freedman BI, Bowden, DW, Sale MM. Variants in intron 13 of the ELMO1 gene are associated with diabetic nephropathy in an African American population. Ann Hum Gen. 2009; 73(2): 152-9. PMCID: PMC2778056

Keene KL, Mychaleckyj JC, Leak TS, Smith SG, Perlegas PS, Divers J, Langefeld CD, Freedman BI, Bowden DW, Sale MM. Exploration of the utility of ancestry informative markers for genetic association studies of African Americans with type 2 diabetes and end-stage renal disease. Hum Genet. 2008; 124(2):147-54. PMCID: PMC2786006

Hicks PJ, Staten JL, Palmer ND, Langefeld CD, Ziegler JT, Keene KL, Sale MM, Bowden DW, Freedman BI. Association Analysis of the Ephrin-B2 Gene in African-Americans with End-Stage Renal Disease. Am J Nephrol. 2008; 28(6):914-920. PMCID: PMC2786015

Leak TS, Mychaleckyj JC, Smith SG, Keene KL, Gordon CJ, Hicks PJ, Freedman BI, Bowden DW, Sale MM. Evaluation of a SNP map of 6q24-27 confirms diabetic nephropathy loci and identifies novel associations in type 2 diabetes patients with nephropathy from an African-American population. Hum Genet. 2008; 124(1):63-71. PMCID: PMC2728933

Keene KL, Mychaleckyj JC, Smith SG, Leak TS, Perlegas PS, Langefeld CD, Herrington DM, Freedman BI, Rich SS, Bowden DW, Sale MM. Comprehensive evaluation of the estrogen receptor alpha gene reveals further evidence for association with type 2 diabetes enriched for nephropathy in an African American population. Hum Genet. 2008; 123(4):333-41. PMCID: PMC2752813

Keene KL, Mychaleckyj JC, Smith SG, Leak TS, Perlegas PS, Langefeld CD, Freedman BI, Rich SS, Bowden DW, Sale MM. Association of the distal region of the ectonucleotide pyrophosphatase/phosphodiesterase 1 gene with type 2 diabetes in an African-American population enriched for nephropathy. Diabetes. 2008; 57(4):1057-62.

Leak TS, Keene KL, Langefeld CD, Gallagher CJ, Mychaleckyj JC, Freedman BI, Bowden DW, Sale MM. Association of the proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin-type 2 (PCSK2) gene with type 2 diabetes in an African American population. Mol Genet Metab. 2007; 92(1-2):145-50. PMCID: PMC2752824

Sale MM, Smith SG, Mychaleckyj JC, Keene KL, Langefeld CD, Leak TS, Hicks PJ, Bowden DW, Rich SS, Freedman BI.Variants of the Transcription Factor 7-Like (TCF7L2) Gene are Associated with Type 2 Diabetes in an African American Population Enriched for Nephropathy. Diabetes. 2007; 56(10):2638-42.

Sale MM, Hsu FC, Palmer ND, Gordon CJ, Keene KL, Borgerink HM, Sharma AJ, Bergman RN, Taylor KD, Saad MF, Norris JM. The uncoupling protein 1 gene, UCP1, is expressed in mammalian islet cells and associated with acute insulin response to glucose in African American families from the IRAS Family Study. BMC Endocr Disord. 2007; 7(1). PMCID: PMC1852562

Gallagher CJ*, Keene KL*, Langefeld CD, Mychaleckyj JC, Hirschhorn JN, Gordon CJ, Freedman BI, Rich SS, Bowden DW, Sale MM. Investigation of the Estrogen Receptor- {alpha} Gene With Type 2 Diabetes and/or Nephropathy in African-American and European-American Populations. Diabetes. 2007; 56(3): 675-84. *Co-first authors.

Grant Support

American Heart Association National Center NCRP Scientist Development Grant
AHA Grant: 11SDG7510006       Keene (PI)01/01/2012 – 12/31/2015
AHA      $USD 308,000
Genetic evaluation of genes in the FOCM pathway that influence recurrent stroke risk and measures of homocysteine, Role: PI