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Cell Biology and Physiology Track Faculty

The primary department of each Cell Biology and Physiology track faculty member is listed.

*not accepting students as a major advisor

Karen Abbott, PhD
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Web profile 
Our lab is interested in the study of glycans (sugars) that are involved in cellular differentiation and cancer progression in a field of study known as glycomics. The post-translational modification of proteins with glycans changes significantly during development and in the presence of diseases such as cancer. These glycan modifications play important roles in establishing the functions of proteins. We are applying glycoproteomic techniques to identify glycoproteins with tumor-specific glycosylation changes in a variety of human cancers. These glycoprotein biomarkers can be evaluated for use as diagnostic and/or therapeutic targets.

Sean Adams, PhD
Pediatrics
Web profile 
Our lab conducts studies that span from the sub-cellular to the whole body, to characterize the mechanisms by which nutrition and physical activity alter metabolic physiology, obesity and type 2 diabetes risk.

Aline Andres, PhD
Pediatrics
Web profile 
Our research investigates the effects of nutrition, body composition and physical activity on growth and metabolism of infants and children. Our multi-disciplinary group addresses complex questions regarding the interaction of these variables while considering multiple facets of child development. Major research projects currently investigate the consequences of prenatal environment and early infant feeding. Other projects also examine how to optimize nutrition and physical activity to improve overall health.

John M. Arthur, MD, PhD
Internal Medicine/Nephrology
Web profile
I am a physician-scientist with research and clinical interests in the prediction of outcomes in kidney disease. The research in my laboratory focuses on the discovery and validation of biomarkers in renal diseases including acute kidney injury, diabetic nephropathy, chronic kidney disease and glomerular diseases like IgA nephropathy. We use targeted analysis of candidate markers by multiplexed bead array, ELISA and mass spectrometry and proteomic discovery analyses by liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry to identify and qualify biomarkers in animal models and humans. 

Giulia Baldini, MD, PhD
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Web profile 
The lab studies Melanocortin-4 receptor, a G-protein coupled receptor involved in appetite control.

Steven Barger, PhD
Geriatrics
Web profile 
My lab is focused on Alzheimer’s disease. Current research is examining the role of diabetes-related disruptions in glucose metabolism and the impact this has on brain function. Evidence indicates that both Alzheimer’s and diabetes involve processes connected to inflammation, which has been another of my longstanding areas of research.

Alexei Basnakian, MD, PhD
Pharmacology and Toxicology
Web profile 
Role of DNases in tissue injury and cell death

Helen Benes, PhD
Neurobiology and Developmental Sciences
Web profile 
I have two (2) major areas of research, which at present are focused on the mosquito as a vector of a number of human infectious diseases (malaria, dengue, West Nile virus, etc.):  1) sex-specific regulation of gene expression in the immature female mosquito in order to develop novel strategies for control of mosquito populations, hence the spread of infectious diseases by female mosquitoes to humans.  My lab focuses on making transgenic mosquitoes to drive certain types of sex-specific gene expression including of cell death genes.  We are also interested in the basic molecular mechanisms underlying sex-specific gene activity in mosquitoes. 2) Inspired by work done in our lab in Drosophila and the mouse, we have undertaken the first study of the transcription factor, Nrf2, in the malaria mosquito.  We are characterizing Nrf2 activity at the transcriptional and post-translational level and exploring the role of Nrf2 in the regulation of detoxification genes whose expression is needed in following a blood meal in female mosquitoes.

Karl Boehme, PhD
Microbiology and Immunology
Web profile 
My laboratory studies mechanisms of reovirus pathogenesis.

Marjan Boerma, PhD
Pharmaceutical Sciences
Web profile 
The overall objective of my research is to elucidate biological mechanisms of cardiovascular injury from exposure to ionizing radiation, and to identify potential methods for intervention. We focus on radiation-induced heart disease as a side effect of radiation therapy to the chest and cardiovascular effects of exposure to space radiation. Our research is performed with animal models of whole body irradiation and image-guided localized irradiation combined with in vivo non-invasive echocardiography, ex vivo cardiac function measurements, and histological and molecular analyses.

Michael Borelli, PhD
Radiology

Elisabet Borsheim, PhD
Pediatrics
Web profile
The overall aim of our program is to promote life-long health starting from the very beginning of a human’s life. Specifically, our research program is focused on studying the effects of physical activity, alone and in combination with nutrition, on optimal growth and development of children, including underlying biological mechanisms. We seek to understand the mechanistic consequences of inactivity and suboptimal nutrition on obesity and related metabolic disorders, and also how maternal physical activity during fetal development (i.e., training during pregnancy) and physical activity during childhood can prevent and/or reverse these conditions.

Gwen Childs, PhD
Neurobiology and Developmental Sciences
Web profile
We are actively studying the role of leptin in the regulation of pituitary cells. We have discovered that leptin may be a post transcriptional regulator for target hormones, receptors and transcription factors. Our studies range from whole animal to molecular approaches and a student would get training in a number of complementary protocols. Our studies are translationally relevant to growth, obesity, reproduction, and fetal and neonatal development.

Parimal Chowdhury, PhD*
Physiology and Biophysics
Web profile 
We study the effects of nicotine on gastrointestinal peptides to understand the mechanism of action of nicotine/cigarette smoking on the pancreas. In separate collaborative studies we are involved in research areas designed to identify the mechanisms by which microgravity and radiation interact to adversely impact whole organism physiology. In particular,we are interested in the effects of radiation and spaceflight on the physiological alterations as encountered during pre and post-flight conditions. We are interested in the characterization of the simulated response of pancreas to the insults of radiation and microgravity.

Alan Diekman, PhD
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Web profile 
Structure and function of carbohydrate binding proteins in prostate cancer and reproduction

Maxim Dobretsov, PhD
Anesthesiology
Web profile 
Studies of mechanisms of physiological and neuropathic pain and pharmacological treatment of pain  Studies of the role of isoforms of Na,K-ATPase in neuronal function and disease  Studies of the effects of physiological effects of microgravity and low-grade irradiation in rat models

Jonathan Dranoff, MD
Internal Medicine/Gastroenterology & Hepatology
Web profile 
Cell biology of liver myofibroblasts; liver fibrosis; liver regeneration; intercellular signaling

Joshua Epstein, DSc*
Myeloma Institute
Web profile 
Plasma cell dyscrasias are a family of malignant diseased characterized by expansion of a clone of abnormal plasma cells which include the apparently benign monoclonal gammopathy of unknown significance (MGUS) and the malignant multiple myeloma. The malignant plasma cells reside in the bone marrow, where they are sustained by their microenvironment while inducing changes that result in the debilitating manifestations of osteolytic bone disease. The interactions of myeloma cells with the microenvironment is mediated through cell-cell contact and through soluble factors and are important for tumor cell survival and for progression from relatively benign stages to the most aggressive disease. While genetic events are associated with the characteristics of the tumor cells, epigenetic regulation of gene expression plays a key role in controlling the properties of the malignant clone. Among the mediators of epigenetics are microRNA molecules secreted from cells encased in protective membranes – exosomes – that transfer molecules from cell to cell in the immediate and remote sites, thus controlling the expression of genes. Our interest is in understanding the roles of exosomal microRNA in the disease process – progression, risk, and resistance to therapy.

Craig Forrest, PhD
Microbiology and Immunology
Web profile
Virology, cancer biology, immunology! Gammaherpesviruses are cancer-causing viruses that infect the majority of humans. We are working to define functions of viral proteins in infection and disease, identify host factors that block viral infection and prevent virus-driven cancers, and understand immune responses to chronic viral infections. Our major goal is to comprehend the complex relationship between gammaherpesviruses and their hosts. PLUS, we get to do cool science and figure out how stuff works!

Aime Franco, PhD
Physiology and Biophysics
Web profile 
In the Franco laboratory we are investigating the role of oncogenes, hormones and microbes in the development of cancer.  We use a variety of mouse models complemented with in vitro cell models to better understand initiation, progression and metastasis of cancer.

Edgar Garcia-Rill, PhD*
Neurobiology and Developmental Sciences
Web profile 
Neuroscience

Robert Griffin, PhD
Radiation Oncology
Web profile
Radiation and Cancer biology, exosomes and cell to cell crosstalk in stem  cell differentiation and activity, nanomedicine applications

Abdallah Hayar, PhD
Neurobiology and Developmental Sciences
Web profile 
Electrophysiology of olfactory bulb and cerebellar neurons – Alcohol research – Rhythmic motor movements such as licking and running – Effects of radiation on neuronal function – Imaging neuronal network – Synchronous bursting of neurons.

Michael Jennings, PhD
Physiology and Biophysics
Web profile 
I study the structure and function of membrane proteins that transport ions, with emphasis on coupled exchangers and cotransporters.  Experimental systems include red blood cells, yeast, and cultured mammalian cells,

Behjatolah Karbassi
Pathology
Cancer vaccine and immunotherapy; Tumor glycans; Tumor progression and metastasis; Cancer and metabolism.

Thomas Kelly, PhD
Pathology
Web profile 
My lab is interested in tumor biology.  Our work has focused on extracellular matrix degrading proteases and their roles in facilitating tumor growth and metatstasis.

Fusun Kilic, PhD
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Web profile 
Serotonin and serotonin transporter in:  1- placenta and their role for growing embryo;  2-hypertension and thrombosis.

Julia Liu, MD
Gastroenterology and Hepatology
Web profile 
Dr. Liu’s research program seeks to under the relationship between innate immune activation and human disease, also known as the hygiene hypothesis. The human intestine is full of microbes that symbolically existed with us for millennia. In the past century, however, a number of inflammatory conditions of the gut such as inflammatory bowel disease and irritable bowel syndrome have been on the rise. Our research has uncovered a previously unrecognized role of intestinal epithelial cells – as the principal driver of leaky gut, colitis and bone disease. In addition to investigations in inflammatory bowel disease, the lab is also investigating the role of epithelial cells in radiation induced gut injury and cancer.

Shi Liu, PhD
Pharmaceutical Sciences
Web profile 
1. Signaling underlying cell survival (heart cells, aging, prevention and repair medicine) and cell death (cancer chemotherapy).  2. drug discovery (from natural products)

Vladimir Lupashin, PhD
Physiology and Biophysics
Web profile 
My laboratory is interested in understanding the molecular mechanisms responsible for the generation and maintenance of intra-cellular membrane-bounded compartments. In all eukaryotic cells intracellular membrane trafficking is critical for a range of important cellular functions including protein secretion, post-translational modifications, cell signalling, cell polarization, and cell maintenance. Defects in membrane trafficking can underline, or even exacerbate, a number of human diseases including cancer, diabetes mellitus, Alzheimer’s, cystic fibrosis, Hermansky-Pudlak syndrome and Congenital Disorders of Glycosylation.

Stewart MacLeod, PhD*
Pediatrics
Web profile 
My main focus is to determine the genetic and epigenetic factors that contribute to the risk of structural birth defects.

Melanie MacNicol, PhD*
Neurobiology and Developmental Sciences
Web profile 
I am working on identification of the cellular mechanisms that control cell growth and development.  I am particularly interested in the role and regulation of stem cells in neural development and in cancer.

Angus MacNicol, PhD
Neurobiology and Developmental Sciences
Web profile
Cell cycle control, stem cells, cancer stem cells, drug discovery, mRNA translation, vertebrate development

Mugimane Manjanatha, PhD
NCTR
Web profile
My work involves development and application of transgenic mutational mouse models for identifying and characterizing hazards, expecially, genotoxicity and epigenetic modifications for risk assessment using “mode of action” type analysis.

Philip Mayeux, PhD
Pharmacology and Toxicology
Web profile 
Acute renal failure is a frequent and serious complication of septic shock in humans. My research is focused on the study of animal models of renal injury associated with sepsis. Studies are directed toward understanding the biochemical and physiological mechanisms triggered by sepsis that lead to cellular injury and organ failure. Our primary interests are in understanding the development of oxidant stress caused by reactive oxygen and nitrogen species as mediators of renal injury and evaluating new therapeutic approaches to prevent renal injury or accelerate recovery.

Judit Megyesi, MD*
Internal medicine/Nephrology
Web profile 
To define the role of the cell cycle in acute and chronic kidney injuries. I was initially trained as a Pathologist, and then specialized in Oncopathology at the Oncologic Institute in Budapest, Hungary.  After coming to the U.S. in 1990, I have been studying different types of acute and chronic kidney injuries.  I have extensive experience in performing all phases of animal surgery, and to interpret functional and morphological characteristics of kidney injury. I am trained and experienced to perform immunohistochemistry, in situ hybridization, interpret histologic localizations, tubule identification of organ damage, grade the injury seen in the in vivo models, etc.  In addition, I am maintaining our tissue culture facility, in which we routinely culture mouse and human kidney cells, culture cells for adenovirus propagation, as well as other cell types such as MEF’s, for comparison between epithelial and fibroblastic cells.

Roy Morello, PhD
Physiology and Biophysics
Web profile 
We utilize genetically modified mouse models to understand the function of poorly characterized genes that have a function in skeletal development, homeostasis or disease. A special interest is in proteins that post-translationally modify collagens and in osteogenesis imperfecta.

Charles O’Brien, PhD
Internal Medicine/Endocrinology
Web profile
We want to understand the cellular and molecular mechanisms that cause bone loss with aging, estrogen-deficiency, and glucocorticoid excess.

Melda Onal, PhD
Physiology and Biophysics
Osteoporosis is a skeletal disease predisposing individuals to increased risk of bone fracture. One of the major determinants of osteoporotic fracture risk is bone mineral density (BMD). BMD is a highly heritable trait allowing its utilization as a quantitative trait for genetic mapping studies performed to understand the genetics of osteoporosis. In collaboration with a genetics group, I have been identifying genetic determinants of bone mass in the form of genetic loci (quantitative trait loci -QTLs) and single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) that are associated with skeletal traits such as BMD. My laboratory utilizes molecular and cellular biology techniques, to establish the functional roles of these BMD-associated SNPs in order to identify genes and transcriptional regulatory elements, as well as establishing their function in bone cells, and effects on skeletal remodeling.

Brian Piccolo, PhD
Pediatrics
Web profile 
My research focuses on using large biological datasets from “–omics” technologies to characterize the interaction between lifestyle choices (e.g., diet and physical activity) and physiology. Currently, I’m interested in how diet and physical activity alters the xeno-metabolome (“non-self” gut microbe-derived metabolites) and how these metabolites influence host energy regulation. The microbiome plays a significant role in early development and function of the gut and other organs, but the specific microbes and their signaling molecules involved with these processes are not fully identified. It is also clear that one’s own health status influences the gut microbiome, but mechanisms underlying this are not clear. Metabolomics is the primary resource used to identify candidate metabolites, and these can be used to test the bioactivity of these molecules. Another key area of interest is using multivariate analyses and data mining techniques in our analysis workflow. The R statistical language is our primary tool to implement these statistical techniques because of its flexibility and ability to create interactive visualizations.

Paul Prather, PhD
Pharmacology and Toxicology
Web profile 
I am a cellular/molecular pharmacologist whose research interests involve understanding the neurobiological mechanisms underlying the addictive states produced by drugs of abuse. Specifically, for over 20 years I have been investigating the cellular and molecular mechanisms of signal transduction mediated by G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs) with which drugs of abuse interact, specifically opioids and cannabinoids.

Peter Price, PhD
Internal Medicine
Web profile 
Our long-term aim is to determine the mechanisms of acute and chronic injuries to the kidney. We were the first to report that the Cdk inhibitory p21WAF1/CIP1 protein is up-regulated in kidney cells after stress. We were also the first to report that p21 expression ameliorates acute kidney injury, and the first to report that p21 expression and cell cycle inhibition is deleterious in a chronic kidney injury model. We have used wild-type and p21 knock-out mice extensively for our studies and have developed transgenic mouse strains in which either p21 or dominant negative  Cdk2 can be induced specifically in kidney proximal tubules. We found that p21 expression in the proximal tubules induces paracrine factor(s) resulting in fibrotic changes after unilateral ureteral obstruction with release. We reported that p21 KO mice are protected from interstitial fibrosis, glomerulosclerosis and hypertension caused by 5/6 nephrectomy. Using p21 wild-type mice with the same genetic background (129Sv), we found that 5/6 nephrectomy caused decreased inulin clearance, increased mean arterial pressure, histologic pathologic changes including severe focal and global glomerulosclerosis, mesangial expansion, and interstitial fibrosis. These mice will be used to confirm our hypotheses in this proposal. We are also identifying substrates kinased by Cdk2 that participate in cell death pathways using analogue-sensitive Cdk2 and site-directed mutagenesis. I am trained in Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, and molecular cloning and have published extensively in these fields.

Sung Rhee, PhD
Pharmacology and Toxicology
Web profile 
Calcium and potassium channels on the surface membrane of vascular muscle cells control calcium influx and potassium efflux, respectively, and thereby regulate arterial diameters. My research interests are 1) using ion channel genes as therapeutic agents to normalize blood pressure, and 2) understanding molecular mechanisms that regulate traffic and expression of ion channels in vascular muscle cells during hypertension and related conditions. We use a wide range of techniques including molecular biology, biochemistry, viral gene transduction, patch clamp, vessel perfusion, confocal and super-resolution imaging, and in vivo microscopy.

Kartik Shankar, PhD
Pediatrics, Section of Developmental Nutrition
Web profile 
Research in my group is focused on understanding the developmental origins of obesity and metabolic disease, including the transmission of obesity from mother to child. We employ of range of cellular, whole-animals (in mice) and translational (using clinical studies) approaches and leverage high-dimensional OMIC methodologies. In addition, to strong exposure to metabolism, obesity and reproductive endocrine research, opportunities in the lab combine learning of both wet-bench and bioinformatics related to these techniques.

Frank Simmen, PhD
Physiology and Biophysics
Web profile 
Our laboratory is interested in the physiological drivers of colon and breast cancers.  Current work in the laboratory and via our collaborations includes: 1) elucidating the role of Krüppel-like factor 9 (KLF9) in cancer suppression; 2) understanding how the hormonal milieu (focus on insulin and the obesogenic environment) affects tumor cell growth; and 3) characterizing the role of Malic Enzyme 1 (ME1) in oncogenesis.  Projects use a combination of novel mouse models, human cell lines and tissues, and OMICs technologies and are translational and highly collaborative.

Rosalia Simmen, PhD
Physiology and Biophysics
Web profile 
My research is focused on defining the mechanisms underlying the dynamics and combinatorial relationships of regulatory pathways implicated in the biology and pathobiology of the mammary gland and the uterus.  We have a specific interest in elucidating the signaling pathways by which steroid hormone receptors, growth factors, cytokines and dietary components are engaged in the pathogenesis of breast cancer and uterine-associated diseases.  We employ diverse cellular and molecular techniques and experimental models including gene arrays for gene discovery, cell lines for analyses of signaling pathways, and human and mouse models of diseases to address basic goals with translational potential.

Sharda Singh, PhD
Pharmacology and Toxicology
Web profile 
Age-associated mitochondrial dysfunction and oxidative damage are primary causes for multiple health problems including sarcopenia and cardiovascular disease (CVD). My research is focused on the study of animal models of sarcopenia and CVD associated with aging. Our primary interests are in understanding the development of oxidant stress caused by reactive oxygen as mediators of myopathy and evaluating new therapeutic approaches to prevent CVD and sarcopenia. In addition, we are examining the therapeutic potential of several agents to prevent doxorubicin-induced cardiac injury using rat breast cancer model.

Joseph Stimers, PhD
Pharmacology and Toxicology
Web profile 
Cardiovascular ion channel function and pharmacology

Brian Storrie, PhD
Physiology and Biophysics
Web profile 
Research focuses on organelles of the secretory pathway using HeLa cells as an easy cell for molecular manipulations of the Golgi apparatus and plalelets as structure/function example of a stored secretory granules.

Ayako Suzuki, MD, PhD
Gastroenterology
NAFLD, gender difference in pathophysiology of NAFLD, drug-induced liver injury, hepatotoxicity

Billy Thomas, MD*
Pediatrics
Web profile 
VitaminD metabolism and bone disease – osteopenia and rickets.

Kottayil Varughese, PhD
Physiology and Biophysics
Web profile 
Structure and function of protein molecules  Structure based drug design

Daniel Voth, PhD
Microbiology and Immunology
Web profile 
Coxiella burnetii interaction with human macrophages

Wayne Wahls, PhD
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Web profile 
Chromosome dynamics, epigenetics, cellular growth controls

Jerry Ware, PhD
Physiology and Biophysics
Web profile 
The role of circulating blood platelets, in thrombosis, inflammation, and cancer.

Tiffany Weinkopf, PhD
Microbiology and Immunology
According to the CDC, more than 1 billion people, or one-sixth of the world’s population, is suffering from one or more Neglected Tropical Diseases with many of these diseases affecting the poorest populations in the developing world. Our lab focuses on the parasitic disease that results from Leishmania infection. We use a combination of mouse models and in vitro culture to define the cellular and molecular mechanisms that are important in the development of disease and the resolution of inflammation. More specifically, we are interested in the balance between the vascular and immune responses that lead to parasite control and those that promote lesion pathology.

Patricia Wight, PhD
Physiology and Biophysics
Web profile 
The focus of research in my laboratory is centered on CNS development, particularly with regard to the formation and maintenance of myelin. Myelin is the tightly compacted multilamellar sheath, which surrounds axons and promotes saltatory conduction of nerve impulses. The myelin proteolipid protein gene (PLP1) encodes the most abundant protein found in mature myelin from the CNS. Expression of the gene is regulated spatiotemporally, with maximal expression occurring in oligodendrocytes during the myelination period of CNS development. PLP1 expression is tightly controlled; misregulation of the gene in humans can result in the X-linked dysmyelinating disorder Pelizaeus-Merzbacher disease (PMD), and in transgenic mice carrying a null mutation or extra copies of the gene can result in a variety of conditions from late onset demyelination and axonopathy to severe early onset dysmyelination. With the use of transgenic and transfection paradigms, we have been able to show that the first intron of the PLP1 contains an enhancer region that is required for expression in oligodendrocytes as well as in other cell types that express PLP1. This region also overlaps a couple of recently discovered, alternatively spliced exons that are primarily restricted to the human species. Current efforts in the laboratory are focused on: identifying the transcription factors/architectural proteins that mediate enhancer function in PLP1 intron 1; test whether critical mutations in the enhancer could be the cause of PMD in patients with unaltered PLP1 coding sequence and gene dosage; understand the and spatiotemporal expression and function of intron 1-dervied splice isoforms in man. We are also using our PLP1-lacZ transgenic mice as a tool to screen for small molecules that stimulate myelination as a possible therapeutic for demyelinating diseases such as multiple sclerosis.

V.Laxmi Yeruva, PhD
Pediatrics
Web profile 
1. Our research focuses on health-oriented basic and translational studies of immunity. The goal of our studies is to understand the factors that differentiate breast-feeding and formula-feeding in terms of immune system and gut functions later in life.  2. Our lab also studies the chlamydial immunopathogenesis working towards biomarkers to predict the upper tract disease in mouse and clinical studies.

Donghoon Yoon, PhD
Myeloma Institute
Web profile 
We are interested in the pathophysiology of multiple myeloma (MM), a B cell cancer characterized by proliferation of malignant plasma cells in the bone marrow, presence of a monoclonal serum immunoglobulin, and osteolytic lesions. We are investigating roles/mechanisms of PTH axis (PTH signal transduction) in MM development and therapeutic agents that target this axis. Additionally we are exploring the roles of Hypoxia (low oxygen tension) and microRNA (miRNA) in MM.

Haibo Zhao, MD, PhD
Internal Medicine/Endocrinology
Osteoclast cell biology and metabolic bone diseases

Fang Zheng, PhD
Pharmacology and Toxicology
Web profile 
Molecular and celllular mechanisms of epilepsy, stroke and other neurological diseases and the discovery of novel therapeutics