Post-doctoral Research: Stem cell-driven organ regeneration in planaria
Veterinary Medical Center
Planarian flatworms are champion regenerators possessing abundant stem cells that fuel regeneration of every organ. The Adler has lab established a novel method to completely remove a single planarian organ, the pharynx, without injuring other tissues. This strategy provides a simplified regeneration response, allowing us to precisely dissect how stem cells are regulated to restore a specific organ.
The objective of my postdoctoral research is to take advantage of our selective amputation method to determine how stem cells are regulated to facilitate precise regeneration of the pharynx. Specifically I am aiming to:
1) resolve if stem cells respond explicitly to the types of tissue lost to induce organ-specific regeneration.
2) establish how stem cells are induced to express FoxA and initiate pharynx regeneration following amputation.
3) identify the molecular cues that normally limit stem cells from initiating pharynx organogenesis.
These complementary approaches will uncover how stem cells are precisely controlled to regenerate specific missing tissues without overgrowth in an adult animal. In addition, identification of mechanisms limiting stem cell activity may reveal potential barriers to regeneration in mammals.
Graduate Research: Regulation of early prophase events and checkpoints in C. elegans meiosis
University of California
My graduate research contributions focused on understanding how cell cycle surveillance mechanisms function to ensure appropriate chromosomes segregation, and thus, prevent aneuploidy. Since aneuploidy is highly correlated with cancer and is a leading cause of infertility and birth defects, my graduate research yields important insights into the potential origins of diseases linked to aneuploidy. Specifically, I took advantage of the fact that, unlike other organisms, early prophase events in C. elegans are not interdependent. This unique aspect of C. elegans allowed me to dissect the surveillance mechanisms that regulate and contribute to the fidelity of two events in early prophase required for proper chromosomes segregation, namely synapsis and recombination. With this approach, I elucidated previously uncharacterized roles for conserved cell cycle checkpoint proteins in monitoring and regulating early meiotic prophase events, uncovering novel mechanisms that protect against aneuploidy. These data have resulted in three first author manuscripts, two that have been published and one that is currently being prepared for submission. Also, I gave numerous oral and poster presentations, one of which yielded an international poster award. Further, I mentored several undergraduates during my graduate career resulting in their authorship on my publications and an advancement in their research careers.