Fertility, Reproduction, and Embryogenesis
The Fertility, Reproduction, and Embryogenesis research theme spans a broad range of interests from gametogenesis and gamete function through embryonic development. Research approaches include the molecular genetic analyses of model systems, developmental psychobiology, and cognitive development in human infants. The reproduction and fertility group (Visconti, Fissore, Salicioni) focuses in the understanding of gamete physiology both from the female and the male sides. At the translational level, the objectives of these studies are:
- to develop better methods of in vitro fertilization in humans and in agricultural relevant species that increase the success rates of fertilization while reducing the impact in the offspring;
- to identify novel targets for contraception in humans,
- to establish methodologies to diagnose infertility, and
- to develop methodologies to overcome infertility such as the development of new parthenogenetic activation methods.
Research in neural development include projects to understand how small signaling molecules pattern and control the growth of the brain (Karlstrom), the genetic control of neural pathways and synapse formation (Downes), involvement of hormones and neuropeptides in prenatal development (Zoeller), reorganizational and plastic responses to injury, drugs, or environmental changes, learning and behavior in neonates, central visual pathway organization, and the development of sensorimotor coordination. A unifying focus within this group is to understanding embryonic mechanisms (e.g., temporal changes in gene expression, cell migration, cell death) that sculpt a functional nervous system ultimately give rise to normal behavioral maturation, and how disruptions in these genetic or epigenetic systems lead to the emergence of abnormal behavior patterns.
The vertebrate development group uses vertebrate embryos (fish, frogs, mice, and bovine) to gain insight into the molecular and morphological events underlying normal developmental processes. Advances gained from studies in this group can be used to understand the etiology of a variety of pathological events such as diabetes, breast cancer, and cleft palate, as well as those of imprinted diseases such as Prader-Willi and Angelman Syndromes. Such advances are also used to develop therapies for the prevention or amelioration of these pathological conditions.
The Mager lab focuses on understanding how epigenetic events govern gene expression and differentiation using mouse genetics as a powerful tool. One thrust in the lab includes defining the mechanisms underlying imprinted gene expression, particularly in the early embryo.
The Tremblay lab is using experimental embryology and genetics in the mouse to demonstrate how the liver and the pancreas form during mouse embryonic development.
Drs. Alfandari and Cousin are studying the molecular mechanisms underlying the craniofacial development in general and the migration to the Cranial Neural Crest cells in particular in the frog. This research could have direct impact not only on our understanding craniofacial birth defects (cleft palate, micrognathia), but also on cancer-cell metastasis.
The Jerry lab uses mouse genetics to examine the influence of hormones and cytokines in mammary gland development as well as in breast tumor progression.
The Albertson, Karlstrom, Jensen, Downes labs use zebrafish to understand aspects of neural and craniofacial development, from nervous system patterning and function to photoreceptor maintenance in the eye to neural stem cell regulation.