Research into the development of organs and other physiologic systems.
Labs In This Area
Investigating dopamine neurogenesis and subtypes; studying the role of microRNAs in Schwann cell (SC) differentiation.
Topic 1. Mechanisms underlying dopamine neurogenesis
The floor plate, the ventral organizing center in the embryonic neural tube, patterns the neural tube by secreting the potent morphogen Shh. Using genetic fate mapping, we have recently shown that the midbrain floor plate, unlike the hindbrain and spinal cord floor plate, is neurogenic and is the source of midbrain dopamine neurons (Joksimovic, et al, 2009 Nature Neuroscience, Joksimovic et al. 2009 PNAS). We are interested in understanding pathways that are involved in floor plate neurogenesis and production of dopamine neurons. We have shown that Wnt signaling is critical for the establishment of the dopamine progenitor pool and that miRNAs may modulate the dosage and timing of the Wnt pathway (Anderegg et al, PloS Genetics 2013).
Topic 2. Deconstructing Dopaminergic Diversity
The neurotransmitter dopamine, produced mainly by midbrain dopaminergic neurons, influences a spectrum of behaviors including motor, learning, reward, motivation, and cognition. In accordance with its diverse functions, dopaminergic dysfunction is implicated in a range of disorders affecting millions of people, including Parkinson’s disease (PD), schizophrenia, addiction, and depression. How a small group of neurons underpins a gamut of key behaviors and diseases remains enigmatic. We postulated that there must exist several molecularly distinct dopaminergic neuron populations that, in part, can account for the plethora of dopaminergic functions and disorders. We are currently working to test this hypothesis and define dopamine neuron subtypes.
Topic 3. MicroRNAs in Schwann cell (SC) differentiation
MicroRNAs, by modulating gene expression, have been implicated as regulators of various cellular and physiological processes including differentiation, proliferation, and cancer. We have studied the role of microRNAs in Schwann cell (SC) differentiation by conditional removal of the microRNA processing enzyme, Dicer1 (Yun et al, 2010, J Neurosci) . We reveal that mice lacking Dicer1 in SC (Dicer1 cKO) display a severe neurological phenotype resembling congenital hypomyelination. SC lacking Dicer1 are stalled in differentiation at the promyelinating state and fail to myelinate axons. We are beginning to determine the molecular basis of this phenotype. Understanding this will be important not only for congenital hypomyelination, but also for peripheral nerve regeneration and SC cancers.
For more information, please see Dr. Awatramani's faculty profile.
View Dr. Awatramani's complete list of publications in PubMed.
Rajeshwar Awatramani, PhD at 312-503-0690
Research Assistant Professor
Milan Joksimovic, Assistant Professor, Medical College of Wisconsin
Angela Anderegg, postdoctoral fellow
Natalya Cherepanova, MSTP student, U. Iowa
Meera Patel, graduate student, U. of Chicago
The Crispino laboratory studies the mechanisms of normal and malignant blood cell growth.
Research in the Crispino laboratory is focused on investigating the regulatory mechanisms governing normal and malignant blood cell development, with an emphasis on understanding the growth of erythroid cells (red blood cells) and megakaryocytes (platelet-producing cells). Major areas of focus include: 1) Understanding the link between Down syndrome and leukemia. We are investigating how mutations in GATA1, a key transcription factor that regulates megakaryocyte growth contribute to leukemia. We are also studying the mechanisms by which trisomy 21 promotes the development of leukemia with a long-term goal of unraveling the mystery of why children with DS are predisposed to leukemia. Our current efforts are focused on characterizing the contributions of two chromosome 21 genes: DYRK1A, a kinase, and ERG, a transcription factor. 2) Development of novel therapeutics for human megakaryocytic malignancies. In collaboration with the Broad Institute, we identified several small molecules that induce proliferation arrest, polyploidization and maturation of malignant megakaryocytes. By a three-pronged target identification approach, we discovered that a key target of these small molecules is Aurora A Kinase. We are currently investigating the utility of AURKA inhibitors as potential new, targeted therapies for acute megakaryocytic leukemia. In addition, we have completed extensive pre-clinical studies to support the testing of AURKA inhibitors in a related blood disease named primary myelofibrosis, a subtype of the MPNs. 3) Investigating the mechanisms of red blood cell development. We are currently studying two aspects of red blood cell development. First, based on our previous discovery that the coalescence of cytoplasmic vesicles is required for enucleation of erythroblasts, we are probing the requirements for specific motor proteins in enucleation and identifying small molecules that enhance enucleation in culture. This research will aid in the development of new strategies to generate red blood cells for transfusion in vitro from stem cells. Second, in line with our expertise and significant interest in GATA1 biology, we are studying the effects of GATA1 mutations on erythropoiesis. We are using state of the art approaches to identify essential, direct GATA1 target genes whose expression depends on the presence of the full-length wild-type protein. This research is relevant to rare red blood cell disorders such as Diamond Blackfan Anemia. Overall, the lab seeks to make seminal basic science discoveries while simultaneously translating these discoveries in ways that will benefit patients with hematologic malignancies.
View lab publications via PubMed.
For more information, visit the faculty profile page of John Crispino, PhD.
Contact Dr. Crispino at 312-503-1504 or the Crispino Lab at 312-503-1433.
Gina Kirsammer, PhD
Research Assistant Professor
Paul Lee, MD, PhD
Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Fellow
Monika Stankiewicz, PhD
Praveen Suraneni, PhD
Benjamin Thompson, MD/PhD
Qiang (Jeremy) Wen, MD/PhD
Research Assistant Professor
Qiong Yang, MD/PhD
Genetic and molecular basis of Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is the most common cause of both hormonal-related infertility and oligomenorrhea. This syndrome is characterized by increased androgen biosynthesis and disordered gonadotropin secretion. PCOS is also associated with profound insulin resistance and increased risk for type 2 diabetes. PCOS, and the insulin resistance associated with it, appear to be genetic defects. Moreover, insulin resistance plays a causal role in the abnormalities of ovarian steroidogenesis as well as the anovulation characteristic of PCOS. There are three major research projects currently ongoing, ranging from large-scale family studies through intensive patient-oriented research to animal models and cellular and molecular biology.
The Genetic Basis of PCOS
This research program focuses on identifying the susceptibility genes for PCOS, performing genotype-phenotype analyses and identifying environmental and genetic factors contributing to PCOS familial phenotypes. Studies include family studies with linkage analysis and detailed analyses of reproductive function and insulin action in women with PCOS and their relatives. The approaches include statistical genetics and in vivo studies of insulin action and secretion, as well as pulsatile gonadotropin secretion. One susceptibility gene region has been identified on chromosome 19p13.2 close to the insulin receptor gene. This research is supported by the NIH-NICHD National Cooperative Program for Infertility Research.
Insulin Action and Secretion in PCOS
These studies are focused on identifying the cellular and molecular mechanisms of defects in insulin action and secretion in PCOS. Approaches include detailed in vivo studies of these parameters utilizing techniques such as the euglycemic glucose clamp, frequently sampled intravenous glucose intolerance test with minimal model analysis and graded glucose infusions. Insulin receptor signal transduction is examined in human skeletal muscle biopsies, as well as in human skeletal muscle and adipocyte cultures. Intrinsic defects in insulin receptor signaling have been identified and the mechanisms of these abnormalities are currently under investigation. These studies are supported by an NIH-NICHD-ORWH Specialized Center of Research (SCOR) on Sex and Gender Factors Affecting Women’s Health.
Fetal Origins of PCOS
These studies examine the impact of prenatal androgen exposure on insulin action in rodent, primate and sheep models. Studies include examination of lipolysis and insulin signaling in skeletal muscle and adipose tissue and the molecular mechanism of fetal programming. These studies are supported by an NIH-NICHD-ORWH Specialized Center of Research (SCOR) on Sex and Gender Factors Affecting Women’s Health.
Scholars will have the opportunity to become involved in phenotype-genotype studies of PCOS families with a strong exposure to the genetics of complex diseases.
For more information, please see Dr. Dunaif's faculty profile.
See Dr. Dunaif's publications in PubMed.
Investigating cell and molecular mechanisms of cerebral cortical development.
The Feng lab is interested in the cellular and molecular mechanisms that control the developmental formation of the cerebral cortex. Our research is specifically focused on understanding how neural progenitors produce an enormous quantity and diversity of cortical during embryonic development and how abnormalities of neural progenitors lead to cortical malformations and neuropsychiatric disorders. We take advantage of human genetic mutations that are known to cause severe anatomical and functional deficits of the cerebral cortex, combining mouse genetic models of these human mutations with cell biology approaches to delineate the molecular mechanisms of developmental neurogenesis. Current research topics include neural progenitor cytoarchitecture maintenance, signal transduction, cell cycle regulation, and cell fate determination. We would like to learn how these cellular processes are interconnected spatiotemporally to govern the generation of diversified cortical neurons in normal and diseased conditions.
For more information, see Dr. Feng's faculty profile.
View Dr. Feng's full list of publications on PubMed.
Yuanyi Feng, PhD at 312-503-1046
Shauna L. Houlihan
Alison A. Lanctot
Development, function, dysfunction and degeneration of sensory receptor cells and neurons
We investigate sensory organs and particularly the uniquely specialized cells that detect external signals (the sensory receptor cells) and communicate this information to the brain (the primary sensory neurons). Our approach is to identify and characterize novel genes involved in the formation (during development or regeneration), function (as sensory transducers), dysfunction and death (causing diseases like deafness or neuropathic pain) of these cells. The genes we have studied so far encode ion channels (of the Deg/ENaC and TRP families) and transcriptional regulators (zinc-finger proteins; these studied in collaboration with Anne Duggan). We are interested in all forms of sensation but, as of now, have primarily explored the somatic (touch and pain), auditory and nasal sensory organs.
Sensory Neuron Development: We found Insm1, a zinc-finger gene regulator that determines the number of olfactory receptor neurons. Insm1 is expressed in the olfactory epithelium, as it is everywhere else in the developing nervous system, in late (but not early) progenitors and nascent (but not mature) neurons, and it functions by promoting the transition of neuroepithelial progenitors from apical, proliferative and uncommitted (i.e., neural stem cells) to basal, terminally dividing and neuron-producing (Duggan et al., 2008; Rosenbaum, Duggan & García-Añoveros 2011). We are currently determining the role of Insm1 in other sensory organs, as well as elucidating the role of other novel neurodevelopmental genes.
Sensory Transduction: We pioneered a molecular model of how certain neurons can detect touch using DEG/ENaC channels and structural components of the extracellular matrix and the cytoskeleton (García-Añoveros et al., 1995; 1996), characterized a major pain transduction channel (TRPA1; Nagata et al., 2005), and continue searching for sensory transducers, particularly ion channels.
Sensory Neuron Degeneration: We found a form of cell death caused by mutations on ion channels that leave them open, generating lethal currents (García-Añoveros et al., 1998). In this way, we found how dominant mutations in the Mcoln3 (Trpml3) gene cause loss of mechanosensory cells of the inner ear and deafness (Nagata et al., 2008; Castiglioni et al., 2011). We continue exploring he role of TRPML3 and other ion channel in inner ear function and disease.
See Dr. García-Añoveros' publications on PubMed.
Research Assistant Professor
Lab Phone: 312-503-4246
Office Phone: 312-503-4245
Role of MDia1 in the pathogenesis of del(5q) myelodysplasic syndromes
Our lab is interested in how cytoskeletal signaling, motor proteins, and adhesion systems are integrated with chemical signaling pathways to regulate cell behavior and tissue differentiation and disease. The Ji lab studies small G proteins and downstream actin regulatory effectors that participate in enucleation during red cell development.
At the level of the nucleus, the Ji laboratory studies genes involved in erythroid lineage commitment, chromatin condensation and enucleation towards understanding how congenital red cell disorders and leukemia develop.
For more information, visit the faculty profile of Peng Ji, MD, PhD.
See Dr. Ji's publications in PubMed.
Transcriptional control of Fut7 in hematopoietic cells
My laboratory is interested in transcriptional control of leukocyte traffic during inflammation and immunity. Our focus is on glycosyltransferase genes which encode enzymes which contribute to the biosynthesis of glycan ligands for selectins. Selectins are carbohydrate-binding adhesion molecules which control leukocyte recruitment during inflammation as well as homeostatic functions such as lymphocyte recirculation through secondary lymphoid organs and leukocyte traffic to bone marrow. At least four glycosyltransferases which participate in selectin ligand formation have been identified, among which the most important is an a1,3 fucosyltransferase called FucT-VII, encoded byFut7. All evidence suggests thatFut7 is dedicated to selectin ligand formation, yet the molecular genetic basis for its complex pattern of expression is poorly understood. We use molecular biologic, genetic, cell biologic, biochemical and immunological approaches to understand how T cell activation and specific cytokines control expression ofFut7 and selectin ligands in activated T cells, howFut7 gene expression is controlled in hematopoietic stems cells and developing myeloid cells, and howFut7 gene expression is controlled by both transcription factors and cis-acting genetic elements.
For lab information and more, see Dr. Kansas's faculty profile.
See Dr. Kansas's publications on PubMed.
Contact Dr. Kansas at 312-908-3237 or the lab at 312-908-3752.
Roles of chondroitin sulfates and genes/proteins in the chondroitin sulfate biosynthesis pathway in development and disease
My laboratory is interested in the functional roles of chondroitin sulfates and chondroitin sulfotransferase genes in mammalian development, disease, and cellular signaling pathways. Specifically, we have been investigating the roles of the sulfotransferase C4ST-1/CHST11 and its chondroitin sulfate product CS-E in the contexts of breast cancer progression, the pediatric disease Costello syndrome, cardiovascular disease, developmental processes including embryonic stem cell differentiation and cell lineage determination, and in the control of Wnt/beta-catenin and HRAS signaling. Our long-term goal is the development of carbohydrate-based pharmacological interventions for the treatment of human diseases, including cancer and cardiovascular disease.
For more information, view the faculty profile of Michael Klüppel, PhD.
See Dr. Klüppel's publications in PubMed.
Michael Klüppel, Ph.D.
Catherine M. Willis, Ph.D.
Robert Prinz, M.D.
The Kume Lab’s research interests focus on cardiovascular development, cardiovascular stem/progenitor cells, and angiogenesis.
Cardiovascular development is at the center of all the work that goes on in the Kume lab. The cardiovascular system is the first functional unit to form during embryonic development and is essential for the growth and nurturing of other developing organs. Failure to form the cardiovascular system often leads to embryonic lethality, and inherited disorders of the cardiovascular system are quite common in humans. The causes and underlying developmental mechanisms of these disorders, however, are poorly understood. A particular emphasis in our laboratory has recently been the study of cardiovascular signaling pathways and transcriptional regulation in physiological and pathological settings using mice as animal models, as well as embryonic stem (ES) cells as an in vitro differentiation system. The ultimate goal of our research is to provide new insights into the mechanisms that lead to the development of therapeutic strategies designed to treat clinically relevant conditions of pathological neovascularization.
View Dr. Kume's publications on PubMed.
For more information, visit the faculty profile for Tsutomu Kume, PhD.
Contact Dr. Kume at 312-503-0623 or the Kume Lab at 312-503-3008.
Pediatric Fertility & Hormone Preservation & Restoration
Our research addresses fundamental regenerative medicine questions through the lens of reproductive biology. The main objective of our lab is to develop a patient-specific ovarian follicle niche that will support systemic endocrine function and fertility in women and girls who were sterilized by cancer treatments, have disorders of sex development or were exposed to other factors that could result in premature ovarian failure or sex hormone insufficiency. This research is a part of the Ann & Robert H Lurie Children’s Hospital Fertility and Hormone Preservation and Restoration Program that bridges basic science, translational research and clinical practice.
For more information, please visit the Laronda Lab Website.
See Dr. Laronda's publications in PubMed.
Regulation of Motor Neuron and Dopaminergic Neuron Function in Development and Disease
Postdoctoral fellow jobs and graduate student rotation projects are available.
Research DescriptionSpinal Motor Neurons and Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA)
SMA is characterized by the selective degeneration of spinal motor neurons. As the leading genetic cause of infant mortality, SMA affects one in every eight thousand live births. Our group is interested in studying mechanism regulating motor neuron development and function, as well as why motor neurons specifically degenerate in SMA. To address these questions, we use a combination of genetic, biochemical and cell biological approaches, and utilize genetically modified mice, induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells reprogrammed from fibroblasts, and zebrafish as model systems. We focus on the regulation of mitochondrial functions in SMA pathogenesis. Based on our findings, we hope to develop new therapeutic strategies for treating SMA.
Dopaminergic Neurons and Parkinson's Disease
Dopaminergic neurons located in the ventral midbrain control movement, emotional behavior and reward mechanisms. Dysfunction of these neurons is implicated in Parkinson’s disease, drug addiction, depression and schizophrenia. Our group is interested in the genetic and epigenetic mechanisms regulating dopaminergic neuron functions in disease and aging conditions. We are particularly interested in how aging and mitochondrial oxidative stress contribute to dopaminergic neuron degeneration in Parkinson's disease through transcriptional and epigenetic regulations. We use mouse models, cultured neurons and iPS cells for these studies.
View Dr. Ma's publications at PubMed
Nimrod Miller, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow
Han Shi, Graduate Student
Brittany Edens, Graduate Student
Kevin Park, Graduate Student
Monica Yang, Undergraduate Student
Aaron Zelikovich, Undergraduate Student
Exploring how each specific cell type and organ acquires all its specific and unique morphological and functional characteristics during embryogenesis
The Oliver Lab focuses on understanding how each specific cell type and organ acquires all its specific and unique morphological and functional characteristics during embryogenesis. Alterations in the cellular and molecular mechanisms controlling organ formation can result in major defects and pathological alterations. Our rationale is that a better knowledge of the basic processes controlling normal organogenesis will facilitate our understanding of disease. Our goal is to dissect the specific stepwise molecular processes that make each organ unique and perfect. Our major research interests are the forebrain, visual system and the lymphatic vasculature and to address those questions we use a combination of animal models and 3D organ culture systems, stem cells and iPS cells.
Related to the lymphatic vasculature, our lab identified years ago the first specific marker for lymphatic endothelial cells and generated the first mouse model devoid of lymphatics. We have characterized many of the critical steps leading to the formation of the lymphatic vasculature. We have also reported that a defective lymphatic vasculature can cause obesity in mice and we are currently trying to determine whether this is also valid in humans.
In case of the central nervous system, our focus is to characterize how complex structures such as the forebrain and eye are formed. For that we have started to apply 3D organ culture systems derived from stem cell and iPS that allow us to grow eyes in a petri dish. Using this approach we expect to dissect the genes and mechanisms controlling these developmental processes.
View Dr. Olivers's publications at PubMed
Epigenetics of Stem Cells and the Stem Cell Niche
My lab focuses on how genetic and epigenetic modulators promote the development and maintenance of adult stem cells.
Microenvironments, or niches, support the maintenance of stem cells and facilitate the development of tumors through largely unknown mechanisms. Cell-autonomous genetic pathways and epigenetic networks have emerged as important determinants for the self-renewal and differentiation of stem cells in embryonic, juvenile, and adult tissues. The importance of non-cell autonomous genetic and epigenetic factors is less well established. Our goal is to identify and characterize the genetic and epigenetic mechanisms utilized by both stem cells and their surrounding niche in supporting the stem cell program. For these studies, the developing mouse testis is used to examine interactions between male germline stem cells (GSCs) and their somatic niche.
Within the testis, differentiated germ cells are continually replenished by self-renewing GSCs to ensure the continuation of spermatogenesis throughout the lifetime of the male. GSCs are adult stem cells that develop after birth but which derive from embryonic primordial germ cells (PGCs). Under abnormal conditions, PGCs are thought to become pluripotent in vivo, develop into carcinoma in situ, and form post-pubertal testicular germ cell tumors, the most common cancer in men aged 15-40. When GSC differentiation occurs at the expense of self-renewal, depletion of germ cells and infertility can result.
Several candidate factors influencing GSC self-renewal and differentiation are being studied: chromatin remodeling gene Sin3a, Polycomb group member Ezh2, and a chemokine ligand and its receptor, Cxcl12 and Cxcr4. Current research is examining the role of Sin3a in somatic Sertoli cells, which support GSCs and nurture all differentiating germ cells. Analysis of Ezh2 in GSCs as well as in testicular germ cell tumors is being conducted to determine whether an altered “Polycomb repression signature” promotes germ cell tumorigenesis. Characterization of Cxcl12, which is expressed in Sertoli cells, and Cxcr4, expressed in germ cells, is being performed to determine whether this chemokine signaling pathway is required to maintain GSCs in their niche and whether this mechanism involves non-coding microRNAs.
To achieve these aims, distinct testicular cell populations are separated by fluorescence- and magnetic-activated cell sorting and analyzed by transcriptional profiling. Potential SIN3A and EZH2 complex-bound target genes are identified by chromatin immunoprecipitation. Loss-of-function effects are examined by one of two methods: generation of conditional knockout mice or RNAi knockdown and transplantation of cultured GSCs into recipient testes. Future studies are aimed at understanding how the niche maintains stem cells and ensures proper organogenesis, with the possibility of tissue regeneration and cancer prevention as therapeutic applications.
For more information visit Dr. Payne's faculty profile page
View Dr. Payne's publications at PubMed
Oxygen Sensing in Embryonic Development, Tissue Responses to Hypoxia, and Tumor Angiogenesis
Our lab is interested in the molecular mechanisms of oxygen sensing and the importance of this process for embryonic development, tissue responses to hypoxia, and tumor angiogenesis. We are testing the hypothesis that the mitochondria play a central role in detecting cellular oxygenation and signal the onset of hypoxia by releasing reactive oxygen species (ROS). These signals trigger downstream signal transduction pathways responsible for the transcriptional and post-translational responses of the cell. Transcriptional activation of genes by Hypoxia-Inducible Factor-1 confers protection against more severe hypoxia by augmenting the expression of glycolytic enzymes, membrane glucose transporters, and other genes that tend to augment tissue oxygen supply by increasing the release of vascular growth factors such as VEGF, erythropoietin, and vasoactive molecules that augment local blood flow. Current experiments are aimed at improving our understanding of how oxygen interacts with the mitochondrial electron transport chain to amplify ROS production and clarifying the targets that they act on to stabilize HIF and activate transcription.
In specific tissues, oxygen sensing is essential for normal function, but it can also contribute to disease pathogenesis. For example, during mammalian development, the lung tissue is hypoxic and blood flow is restricted in the pulmonary circulation in order to prevent escape of oxygen from the pulmonary capillaries to amniotic fluid. At birth, inflation of the lung with air causes an increase in lung oxygen levels, which triggers relaxation of pulmonary arteries. In Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of the Newborn, failure of the pulmonary circulation to dilate results in elevated pulmonary arterial pressures and significant lung gas exchange dysfunction. We are testing the hypothesis that pulmonary vascular cells sense O2 at the mitochondria and that ROS released from those organelles trigger an increase in cytosolic calcium, which causes smooth muscle cell contraction. In adult patients with hypoxic lung disease, similar activation of hypoxic vasoconstriction can lead to chronic pulmonary hypertension, which can progress to right heart failure. A fuller understanding of the mechanisms of oxygen sensing in health and disease may lead to insights into therapeutic inhibition of this response in disease states.
In solid tumors, consumption of oxygen by highly metabolic tumor cells leads to hypoxia and threatens glucose supplies. Hypoxic tumor cells retain their oxygen sensing capacity and turn on expression of HIF-dependent genes, leading to tumor angiogenesis and increased blood supply, which permits further growth. We are currently exploring the hypothesis that the mitochondrial oxygen sensor is required for this response using pursuing genetic models. A better understanding of how tumor cells detect hypoxia could lead to the discovery of therapeutic approaches that would prevent detection of hypoxia and thereby prevent tumor progression.
For more information visit Dr. Schumacker's faculty profile page
View Dr. Schumacker's publications at PubMed
Development and regenerative repair of vertebrate limbs and hearts
The development of organs during embryogenesis and their repair during adulthood are biological problems of very practical importance for regenerative medicine.
Using both newt and zebrafish model organisms that naturally rebuild lost structures as adults, we identified evolutionarily conserved gene activities indicative of a molecular signature of regeneration. Particularly, we found the dynamic remodeling of the extracellular matrix (ECM) to be key in instructing cell behaviors that are critical for initiating and maintaining regenerative processes. These findings point to new opportunities for the enhancement of regenerative wound healing in mammals through the manipulation of the local extracellular environment.
As a new research direction, we are studying an unexpected hyperactive blood clotting phenotype in mice deficient for the actin-associated protein Pdlim7. The Pdlim7 knockout mouse provides strong translational opportunities as a novel model to better understand the causes and possible treatments of hypercoagulopathies.
View all publications on PubMed
Phone Dr. Simon at 773-755-6391 or the Simon Lab at 773-755-6372.
Role of homeodomain-containing transcription factors in pancreas and liver organogenesis
My lab investigates mechanisms that establish the complex architecture of 2 vital mammalian organs, the pancreas and liver. Our past studies produced some unique mouse models that helped us begin dissecting the role of homeodomain-containing transcription factors in pancreas and liver organogenesis. Also, these mouse models helped us identify potential new regulators of pancreas and liver cell fate and morphogenesis.
In addition to using mouse models, our current studies incorporate other methods to better address specific questions related to pancreas and liver formation. For instance, we grow ex-vivo explants of mouse embryonic tissues to study pancreas branching morphogenesis or hepatoblast delamination in a dish. We also use in silico and bioinformatics tools to uncover molecular pathways and transcriptional networks regulating pancreas and liver cell specification and differentiation. More recently, we began using protocols of ESCs and iPSCs differentiation to interrogate the function of our genes of interest in early endoderm development or hepatopancreas cell fate specification. Ultimately, my lab will use the knowledge gained from our mouse investigations to address mechanisms of early human pancreas and liver development in organoid and iPS/ESC cultures.
Our studies will generate novel mechanistic information on how specific transcription factors regulate progenitor specification, morphogenesis and cellular plasticity in the murine pancreas, and how altered homeobox gene activity contributes to pancreatic and liver diseases. I also predict that novel key regulators of early hepatic morphogenesis, hepatocyte cell fate, and liver zonation will be identified.
View Dr. Sosa-Pineda's publications at PubMed
Morphogenetic processes in vertebrate embryo
Animal development requires proper specification of different cell types and, at the same time, their organization in to multicellular arrangements such as tissues and organs. My laboratory investigates the mechanisms that control morphogenetic processes in vertebrate embryo. We are studying these processes in the zebrafish (Danio rerio) using a combination of genetic analysis with embryological and molecular methods. The transparency of zebrafish embryos together with the generation of fluorescent transgenic animals allows us to use high-resolution confocal microscopy for in vivo analysis of cell behaviors. Moreover, similarities in developmental programs among all vertebrates make zebrafish an excellent model for investigating human diseases and development.
We are focusing current efforts on the mechanisms that shape the zebrafish head skeleton. We are particularly interested in the role of non-canonical Wnt signaling in cartilage morphogenesis. Mutants with altered non-canonical Wnt signaling pathways exhibit similar cell behavior defects during gastrulation and cartilage morphogenesis. This observation led to the hypothesis that non-canonical Wnt signaling controls cartilage element morphology by modification of chondrocyte behavior. My work on the characterization of the zebrafish knypek gene has revealed a new role for glypicans (heparan sulfate proteoglycan) in controlling morphogenetic movements during gastrulation by promoting non-canonical Wnt11 signaling. We are investigating the function of non-canonical Wnts and their potential co-receptors, glypicans, in chondrocyte differentiation and polarization. Because the initial steps in craniofacial development are similar in all vertebrates, these studies will help understand genetic basis for relatively frequent congenital anomalies causing abnormal development of the hard and soft tissue of the head and neck.
We are also interested in the developmental roles of other glypicans, as these extracellular proteins can play an essential role by interaction with growth factors, chemokines, extracellular matrix proteins, enzymes and enzyme inhibitors. Glypicans can be involved in regulation of ligand-receptor interactions and control of ligand distribution, both within a tissue and on the cell surface. For example, the clinical features of Simpson-Golabi-Behmel overgrowth syndrome, caused by mutation in the gene encoding Glypican 3, suggest that this protein is involved in regulation of cell survival and/or proliferation. One goal of my laboratory is to identify zebrafish glypicans and characterize developmental processes that they are regulating.
For more information view Dr. Topczewski's faculty profile page
View Dr. Topczewski's publications at PubMed
Understand the development of the ovarian follicle, identify markers and determinants of egg quality, and discover how this basic biology can be applied to patients
Welcome to the Woodruff Lab, a team of research faculty, post-doctoral professionals, graduate students, and lab technicians devoted to the study of ovarian health and development. We are working in three main areas. The first is ovarian follicle development, the study of the formation and maturation of the ovarian follicle, which is the basic functional unit of the ovary. The follicle includes somatic cells (which make hormones like estrogen and inhibin) and the oocyte (or egg). We are attempting to isolate the factors that regulate follicle and oocyte maturation and to understand the mechanisms of follicle and oocyte survival and death. The second focus of the Woodruff Lab is to develop in vitro follicle culture systems that can mimic the normal in vivo patterns of follicle development. The end goal of this research is to allow us to successfully remove healthy ovarian tissue from a cancer patient, safely store it until the patient has completed their treatment, and then either harvest follicles from the tissue in an effort to grow them or surgically transplant the tissue to restore natural ovulation. Our third area of study is on the endocrine hormones inhibin and activin, which govern the reproductive cycle. Work on these hormones is essential to an understanding of healthy reproductive cyclicity and on the treatment of infertility.
View publications on PubMed.
Contact the Woodruff Lab via email.
Research Assistant Professor:
Molecular Mechanisms of Tumorigenesis and Cancer Metastasis
The Zhang laboratory is focused on two research directions: 1) determining role of tumor suppressors in development and cancer progression, and 2) identifying immune components that control breast cancer metastasis.
The main focus of my research program is to study the roles of tumor suppressors in normal development and in breast and prostate cancer progression, focusing on maspin and an Ets transcription factor PDEF. Maspin is a unique member of the SERPIN family that plays roles in normal tissue development, tumor metastasis, and angiogenesis. Genetic studies by my laboratory using maspin transgenic and knockout mice demonstrated an important role of maspin in normal mammary, prostate, and embryonic development. Recently, we have identified several new properties of maspin. As a protein that is present on cell surface, maspin controls cell-ECM adhesion. This function is responsible for maspin-mediated suppression of tumor cell motility and invasion. We have also discovered that maspin is involved in the induction of tumor cell apoptosis through a mitochondrial death pathway. The long-term goals of these projects are to elucidate the molecular mechanisms by which maspin and PDEF control tumor metastasis and to identify their physiological functions in development. These analyses are not only important for basic biology and but also may lead to a therapy for cancer and other developmental diseases.
Another focus of research in Zhang lab is to identify immune components that control breast cancer metastasis. Chronic inflammation not only increases neoplastic transformation but also drives the inhibition of the immune response in a protective negative-feedback mechanism. Suppressive immune cells are recruited to the sites of inflammation and function to inhibit both innate and adaptive immune responses, enabling tumor tolerance and unmitigated tumor progression. To study the interplay between tumor and immune cells, the Zhang lab has developed a unique animal model of breast cancer that reproduces different stages of breast cancer bone metastasis. Molecules that control tumor-immune cell interaction and immunosuppression have been identified. We are currently studying roles of these genes in tumor-driven evolution that control chronic inflammation and immunosuppression. We hypothesize that these key pro-inflammatory genes are upregulated during cancer progression, which function synergistically to recruit and activate suppressive MDSCs, TAMs and Tregs, inducing chronic inflammation and an immunosuppressive tumor microenvironment conducive to metastatic progression.
For more information visit Ming Zhang's faculty profile.
View publications by Ming Zhang in PubMed