Signaling pathways in early heart development
Donor: National Institutes of Health
Program: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)
Award Date: 5/30/2012
In developing embryos, a select group of progenitor cells will form heart tissue. Our research is focused on understanding how the identity of these heart progenitors is first established. In particular, we study how heart progenitors interpret a rich array of signals produced by neighboring cells. We conduct this research using the simple embryos of a marine invertebrate, Ciona intestinalis. Although Cionais a member of our own chordate phyla, Ciona embryos are constructed from relatively low cell numbers. We are therefore able to precisely monitor the emergence of the heart progenitors and their interactions with neighboring cells. Additionally, the Ciona genome encodes single copies of signaling molecules that have been duplicated in humans and other vertebrate chordates. Ciona’s genetic simplicity allows us to rigorously define how discrete signals contribute to heart formation.
Mistakes in the interpretation of cellular signals contribute to congenital defects in human heart formation. Unfortunately, such mistakes occur with great frequency and approximately one percent of all children are born with a heart defect. By studying heart cell identity in the simple embryos of our invertebrate cousins, we aim to help in the diagnosis and treatment of these prevalent human disorders.
This grant will provide student research opportunities for up to four students.
To find out more, please visit the following websites…
Project Period: 7/1/2012 - 6/30/2014