The Department of Developmental Biology was founded in August of 2009 as a basic science department in the School of Medicine. We are dedicated to advancing research and education in the study of embryology, and the analysis of the developmental etiology of human diseases. Therefore, the department has a dual mission that entails the pursuit of basic research in developmental biology, and the bridging of basic research with disease modeling and translational investigations to shed light on human disease mechanisms. The long-term goal of these research efforts is to alleviate the disease burden affecting our most vulnerable population - the newborn, infants, and children.
Research programs in the department are focused on heart, lung, kidney, and liver organogenesis using zebrafish and rodent animal models, and through the study of embryonic stem cells and their differentiation into organs. Parallel translational studies are being pursued using animal disease models, disease modeling with patient derived induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, and clinical translational investigations with institutional review board (IRB) approved human study protocols.
Together these studies promise to yield new insights into the developmental origin of human disease pathogenesis. Some of the diseases of interest include congenital heart disease, cardiac hyperptrophy and arrhythmias, as well as various renal diseases such as acute kidney injury (AKI) which has a high mortality and morbidity that has not decreased over the last twenty years. In addition, insights into the developmental regulation of cell lineage specification will have importance for regenerative medicine and the treatment of liver degenerative diseases such as primary biliary cirrhosis, or in cardiac and renal repair and regeneration. The faculty research programs in the department utilize a wide range of cutting edge high throughput technologies with large-scale genomics and systems approaches. Some examples include deployment of whole genome, exome, and transcriptome analysis with next generation sequencing technology, automation in high throughput chemical screens for drug discovery, and the pursuit of genetic analysis with large-scale mutagenesis screens.
The Department of Developmental Biology is based at the Rangos Research Center of the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh in the Lawrenceville campus. In addition, faculty with research programs focused on the use of zebrafish models are located in the Biomedical Science Tower 3 in the Oakland campus. The Department of Developmental Biology also oversees the University of Pittsburgh Stem Cell Core Facility, which is housed in the Rangos Research Center.
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