Genetics and Developmental Biology Center

The Genetics and Developmental Biology Center (GDBC) is dedicated to investigating the roles of genes and gene networks in a variety of biological processes related to organismal development and the maintenance of homeostasis. In addition, there is a significant emphasis on understanding the molecular mechanisms by which these cellular regulatory components are disrupted to cause disease, and how they can be manipulated to develop new gene-based and other therapies. GDBC investigators make use of a variety of approaches to answer these questions, including model genetic systems such as the fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster), fluorescent imaging, and genomic technologies. This basic research helps fuel scientific discovery that may one day help advance research related to heart, lung, blood, and sleep conditions or other fields.

Our Labs

Human Endosymbiont Medicine

The Laboratory of Human Endosymbiont Medicine, led by Dr. Neal Epstein, focuses on the further analysis of a novel life form that has been identified by our laboratory to exist within a subset of most all nucleated human cells, forming isolated foci in most tissues. This is distinct from the microbiome as presently studied, which exists on the surfaces of cells, on the skin, and in the gut lumen. The endosymbiont's nucleic acid sequence, physiology, and EM defined morphology show it to be unique with no homologues in GenBank or the literature. A unique antibody shows it is present in the human egg allowing the vertical transmission from mother to progeny as is standard for many endosymbionts in Arthropoda. Facultative free living, it is motile and can be tagged with a fluorescent antibody allowing visualization of it entering human cells in primary culture. The laboratory focuses on its further characterization and its role in human health and disease.

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Molecular Cardiology

As prototypical cellular motor proteins, most myosins convert the energy of ATP into movement. Contractile muscle myosin II proteins participate in the beating of the heart and movement of the body, while non-muscle myosin IIs play an integral role in cellular movement, shape regulation, and cell division. The Laboratory of Molecular Cardiology, led by Dr. Robert S. Adelstein, is focused on the role of non-muscle myosin II (NM II) in development and disease. Research projects include: the role of NM IIA in spermatogenesis, the function of NM IIs in cardiac development, using whole genomic sequencing to study causative genes for Pentalogy of Cantrell; understanding the role of NM IIA in squamous cell carcinoma; NM II and mechanotransduction; and studying the functions of the Rbfox family of RNA binding proteins.

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Stem Cell and Neurovascular Research

The overarching goal of the Laboratory of Stem Cell and Neurovascular Research, led by Dr. Yoh-suke Mukouyama, is to uncover the molecular control of the morphologic processes underlying the branching morphogenesis and patterning of the vascular and nervous systems. These systems share several anatomic and functional characteristics and are often patterned similarly in peripheral tissues. These characteristics suggest that there is interdependence between these two networks during tissue development and homeostasis. Thus, Dr. Mukouyama is studying neuronal influences on vascular branching patterns and vascular influences on both neuronal guidance and neural stem cell maintenance. He has recently extended the lab’s research to the unanticipated roles of tissue macrophages and microglia in neuronal and vascular development. His laboratory approaches these problems using a combination of high-resolution whole-mount imaging, advanced genetic perturbations, and in vitro organ culture techniques.

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