Trainee Projects

brook armistead

Research

Brooke’s research focuses on understanding molecular mechanisms underlying abnormal placental development, which can result in pregnancy complications, such as preeclampsia. The preeclamptic placenta is characterized by an anti-angiogenic environment due to aberrant trophoblast differentiation and invasion. In normal pregnancy, the transcription factor PPARγ (peroxisome proliferator activated receptor – γ) regulates critical aspects of placentation that are disrupted in preeclampsia. Brooke’s research investigates how PPARγ is involved in the insufficient trophoblast invasion and anti-angiogenic environment of the preeclamptic placenta. The ultimate aim of Brooke’s research is to identify PPARγ-related pathways that could be targeted for possible therapeutic intervention in preeclamptic patients.

Recent Publications

  1. Kadam L*, Armistead B*, Kohan-Ghadr HR, Drewlo S. 2020. PPARγ-GCM1 signaling mediated expression of FLT1 in the human placenta. PlosOne. In review.  *Authors contributed equally
  2. Drewlo S, Armistead B, Johnson E, Kadam L, Kohan-Ghadr HR. 2020. Epigenetic modulation during pregnancy and pregnancy related disorders, in Epigenetics and Reproductive health. Elsevier, Amsterdam, Netherlands. Book Chapter, In press.
  3. Armistead B, Johnson E, Kadam L, VanderKamp R, Kula-Eversole E, Kohan-Ghadr HR, Drewlo S. 2020. Placental regulation of energy homeostasis during human pregnancy. Endocrinology, 161(7), 32417921.
  4. Armistead B, Kadam L, Drewlo S, Kohan-Ghadr HR. 2020. The role of NFκB in healthy and preeclamptic placenta: trophoblast in the spotlight. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 12(5):1775, 32150832.
  5. Drewlo S, Johnson E, Kilburn B, Kadam L, Armistead B, Kohan-Ghadr HR.  2020. Irisin induces trophoblast differentiation via AMPK activation in the human placenta. Journal of Cellular Physiology, 235(10):7146-7158, 32020629.

brook armistead cellsOutreach Project

Brooke participates in the yearly event, MSU Girl’s Math and Science Day, which welcomes girls from local elementary and middle schools to interact with MSU graduate students and scientists to learn about important science-related topics. This past year, Brooke has enjoyed helping teach the students about DNA extractions from fruit.

mohamed ashry

Research

Transcription factor AP2γ (TFAP2C) is a key regulator of mammalian trophoblast lineage formation required for cell polarization, position-dependent HIPPO signaling, and Cdx2 expression. Mohamed studies the role of TFAP2C in establishing the trophoblast lineage gene expression program by forming a regulatory complex with TEAD4, YAP1, and other key proteins. He is using loss of function and gain of function methods, co-immunoprecipitation, ChIP, and gene expression analysis in preimplantation embryos and Tfap2c-inducible ES cells to assay for: a) physical and functional interactions between TFAP2C, TEAD4, YAP1, and other co-regulators; b) effects on chromatin accessibility, and c) transcriptional regulation of trophoblast specific genes.

Recent Publications

  • Mohamed Ashry, Sandeep Rajput, Joseph Folger, Chunyan Yang, Jason Knott, and George W. Smith (2020): Follistatin treatment modifies the DNA methylation pattern of the CDX2 gene in bovine embryos. Molecular Reproduction and Development. 2020: 1–11. https://doi-org.proxy2.cl.msu.edu/10.1002/mrd.23409
  • Challis Karasek, Mohamed Ashry*, Chad S. Driscoll, and Jason G. Knott (2020): A tale of two cell-fates: Role of the hippo signaling pathway and transcription factors in early lineage formation in mouse preimplantation embryos. Molecular Human Reproduction, 26 (9): 653–664 https://doi:10.1093/molehr/gaaa052 . (*co-first author)

mohamed ashry cellsOutreach Project

Mohamed will be volunteering in the university events that promote STEM among children and young adults including MSU Science Festival and Science Olympiad. The 2021 MSU science festival will be virtual. Mohamed will provide an online demonstration for the in vitro embryo production process with real pictures for sperms, oocytes, and different stages of preimplantation embryos.

Maria Ariadna

Research

Ariadna’s research is focused on the inflammatory regulation of miR-21 and fibrosis in the pathophysiology of endometriosis. This disorder is an estrogen-dependent inflammatory disease characterized by the presence of endometrial epithelial and stromal cells at ectopic locations. This can result in bleeding, inflammation, fibrosis and adhesion formation, primarily in the pelvic area causing pain and infertility in women. She researches the mechanisms by which IL-6 regulates mir-21 and how mir-21 affects TGF-β signaling. Ariadna also uses the mouse model of endometriosis to investigate mechanisms of fibrosis development.

Recent Publication

  • M. Ariadna Ochoa Bernal and Asgerally Fazleabas, 2020, “Physiologic Events of Embryo Implantation and Decidualization in Human and Non-Human Primates”, International Journal of Molecular Science.

Outreach Project

Ariadna participated in the Girls Math & Science Day where she taught elementary school children basic concepts of genetics by performing different activities. Ariadna also volunteered during the Science Fair at the Research Center in Grand Rapids promoting STEM activities with GRPS high school students interested in a future career in science.

chelsie boodoo

Research

Maternal diabetes or improper vitamin supplementation during pregnancy can lead to neural tube defects like spina bifida. Folate deficiency leads to hyperhomocysteine which has been associated with neural tube defects. In diabetic mothers, their serum levels of free fatty acids, like palmitate, and homocysteine levels are elevated. Palmitate, a saturated free fatty acid, can induce the dimerization of Inositol Requiring Enzyme (IRE1), which is an ER transmembrane sensor of the unfolded protein response. Chelsie’s research investigates how factors such as hyperhomocysteine, folic acid, biomechanics and palmitate that activate IRE1 affect the extacellular matrix in relation to spina bifida.

Awards

  • MSU Engineering Symposium
    • 1st Place Best Poster Presentation in Health, Food Safety and Biomechanics for research on how mechanics affect the extracellular matrix of the bladder
  • MSU Student Life and Services Awards
    • Gold Recipient MSU 2020 Graduate Student Leader

Outreach Project

Chelsie helped organize a series of science-art events at MSU through MSU SciComm, an organization that she founded and leads.

gregory burns phd

Research

Endometriosis is a non-malignant disorder, affecting 10-15% of reproductive-age women, and associated with debilitating chronic pelvic pain and impaired fertility. Greg uses a baboon model to study the establishment and progression of endometriotic lesions. FOXC1 was identified through integrated transcriptomic analyses as a central transcription factor upregulated in endometriotic lesions that may regulate epithelial-mesenchymal and fibroblast-myofibroblast transition pathways. The long-term goal of his research is the discovery of molecular mechanisms governing the pathogenesis of endometriosis, particularly fibrosis, to contribute to the development of non-invasive diagnostics and fertility-sparing treatments.

gregory burns cellsOutreach Project

Greg plans to volunteer for the Darwin Discovery Day in Februrary 2020 hosted by the Mid-Michigan chapter of Graduate Women in Science. This annual event is held to celebrate Charles Darwin’s birthday and translate science to the public.

Kaitlin Karl

Research

Kaitlin’s research addresses the development of more efficient superovulation techniques to improve oocyte/embryo collections in cattle that may also benefit assisted reproductive technologies in women, as well as to determine the mechanisms whereby excessive hormonal treatments during superovulation impair oocyte/embryo quality and survival. To achieve these goals, Kaitlin uses superovulating of small ovarian reserve heifers with various excessive doses of Folltropin-V, during which time daily ultrasonography and blood sampling will determine number and size of follicles and corpora lutea, uterine thickness, and circulating concentrations of reproductive hormones, as well as utilizing oocyte pick-up techniques to evaluate egg quality.

Recent Publications

Kaitlin Rose Karl, Fermin Jimenez-Krassel, Emily Gibbings, Janet Ireland, Zaramasina Clark, Robert Tempelman, Keith Latham, James Ireland. BIOLRE-2020-0438 - Negative Impact of Excessive Doses of Follicle-Stimulating Hormone During Superovulation on Ovulatory Follicle Function in Heifers.

kaitlin karl dairykaitlin karl cellOutreach Project

Kaitlin has volunteered at the MSU Great Dairy Adventure, which is an annual educational exhibition to help inform the public of all ages about bovine reproduction, common dairy practices, and milk production.  

ryan marquardt

Research

Ryan’s ongoing doctoral research is focused on the endometrial compartment-specific function of ARID1A, a SWI/SNF chromatin remodeling complex protein, as it relates to endometriosis-related infertility. ARID1A expression is reduced in endometrium from women affected by endometriosis, a condition in which endometrial tissue grows outside the uterine cavity causing pelvic pain and infertility, but the pathophysiological significance is unclear. Utilizing an innovative endometriosis mouse model, conditional Arid1a knockout mice, and clinical biopsy samples will provide insight into the relationship between ARID1A loss and endometrial non-receptivity in the context of endometriosis.

 

Recent Publications

  • Marquardt, R.M., Kim, T.H., Shin, J.H., and Jeong, J.W. (2019). Progesterone and Estrogen Signaling in the Endometrium: What Goes Wrong in Endometriosis? J. Mol. Sci. 20(15), 3822. PMID: 31387263.
  • Marquardt, R.M., Lee, K.L., Lee, B., Kim, T.H., DeMayo, F.J., and Jeong, J.W. (2020). Interleukin-13 receptor subunit alpha-2 is a target of progesterone receptor and steroid receptor coactivator-1 in the mouse uterus. Biology of Reproduction PMID: 32558878.
  • Marquardt, R.M., Kim T.H., Yoo, J.Y., Teasley, H.E., Fazleabas, A.T., Young, S.L., Lessey, B.A, Arora, R., and Jeong, J.W. Endometrial epithelial ARID1A loss causes gland dysfunction in endometriosis and non-receptive endometrium. In Review.
  • Marquardt, R.M., Jeong, J.W., and Fazleabas, A.T. Animal models of adenomyosis. In Review.

Outreach Project

Ryan volunteered with the Rare Disease Day Symposium at Calvin University, which exists to bring together patients, families, and researchers from the rare disease community to gain a deeper understanding of each other and to learn how to support the community.

Genna W Moldovan

Research

Genna’s focus is on endometriosis, an inflammatory and estrogen-dependent chronic gynecological disorder that affects approximately ten percent of reproductive aged women. Endometriosis is characterized by endometrium found at ectopic sites and induces a decidualization defect in eutopic endometrial stromal cells leading to infertility. She is investigating the interactions between two pathways that are critical for decidualization success, the HIPPO and NOTCH signaling pathways, with the aim of identifying the molecular mechanisms driving decidualization and investigating how these mechanisms may become aberrant in women with endometriosis thereby contributing to decidualization defects.

Recent Publications

Wilson MR, Reske JJ, Holladay J, Wilber GE, Rhodes M, Koeman J, Adams M, Johnson B, Su R, Joshi NR, Patterson AL, Shen H, Leach RE, Teixeira JM, Fazleabas AT, Chandler RL. ARID1A and PI3-Kinase pathway mutations in the endometrium drive epithelial transdifferentiation and collective invasion. Nat Comm. 2019 Aug 7; 10(1):3554. doi:10.1038/s41467-019-11403-6. PubMed PMID: 31391455

Outreach Project

Genna volunteered with Michigan State University’s Graduate Women in Science for Girls Math and Science Day. Girls Math and Science Day is an opportunity for middle school girls to participate in science and math-based activities lead by science students and researchers at MSU.

Peter Z Schall

Research

Peter uses advanced methods for analysis of RNA sequencing data to study mammalian reproductive tissues, oocytes, and embryos. These studies include cross-species meta-analyses integrating expression data from multiple mammalian species with analysis of functional effects. The expectation is that the identification of genes that are regulated in common across species and the pathways and functions that they are associated with reveal new insights into the most salient mechanisms driving mammalian oogenesis and early embryogenesis.

Recent Publications

  • Eroglu B, Szurek EA, Schall PZ, Latham KE, Eroglu A. Probing lasting cryoinjuries to oocyte-embryo transcriptome. PLoS One. 2020;15(4):e0231108. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0231108. eCollection 2020. PubMed PMID: 32251418; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC7135251.
  • Schall PZ, Ruebel ML, Latham KE. A New Role for SMCHD1 in Life's Master Switch and Beyond. Trends Genet. 2019 Dec;35(12):948-955. doi: 10.1016/j.tig.2019.10.001. Epub 2019 Oct 25. Review. PubMed PMID: 31668908; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC6884149.
  • Ruebel ML, Vincent KA, Schall PZ, Wang K, Latham KE. SMCHD1 terminates the first embryonic genome activation event in mouse two-cell embryos and contributes to a transcriptionally repressive state. Am J Physiol Cell Physiol. 2019 Oct 1;317(4):C655-C664. doi: 10.1152/ajpcell.00116.2019. Epub 2019 Jul 31. PubMed PMID: 31365290; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC6850993.
  • Schall PZ, Ruebel ML, Midic U, VandeVoort CA, Latham KE. Temporal patterns of gene regulation and upstream regulators contributing to major developmental transitions during Rhesus macaque preimplantation development. Mol Hum Reprod. 2019 Mar 1;25(3):111-123. doi: 10.1093/molehr/gaz001. PubMed PMID: 30698740; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC6417155.

Outreach Project

Peter has volunteered at two science related functions: the MSU Science Olympiad State Tournament, and MSU Grandparents University. At the Olympiad, Peter proctored a middle/high school science competition. At Grandparent's University Peter helped out on activities relating to DNA, conveying his perspective on the importance of DNA science to multiple generations. Peter has also represented Michigan State University at an AAAS workshop in Washington D.C., focusing on scientific communication and proper technique for advocating for scientific research.

robin seay

Research

Robin’s research focuses on the role of Bone Morphogenic Protein (BMP) signaling in the second cell fate decision of preimplantation embryos, which is essential for embryonic development and birth of healthy offspring. She hypothesizes that BMP signaling becomes active in the embryo at implantation, and at that point directs primitive endoderm cells toward a differentiated state by inhibiting FGF signaling. To test this hypothesis, Robin studies mammalian embryos that lack BMP signaling using immunofluorescence for signaling markers, and genomic analyses using RNA-seq and CUT&RUN to analyze BMP function and DNA-protein interactions.

Maximum projection confocal image of a E3.5 mouse embryo stained for E-cadherin (red) and the transcription factor CDX2 (green)Outreach Project

Robin is actively involved in Graduate Women in Science (GWIS), an organization that promotes diversity in STEM fields and encourages young women to pursue careers in science. Through GWIS, Robin has volunteered at multiple outreach events to promote children’s interest in STEM including Girl’s STEM Day, Darwin Discovery Day at the MSU Museum, and Girl's Math and Science Day. In addition, Robin is the Logistics Chair in organizing the 2021 GWIS National Conference, which will be hosted at MSU in 2021.

image of jennifer watts phd

Research

Zika virus (ZIKV) causes fetal microcephaly. It remains unknown how the timing of infection during pregnancy affects severity of defects, because most studies have focused on later stage infection. Jennifer hypothesizes that earlier ZIKV infection during preimplantation stages could cause more severe effects than infection at later stages due to effects on early cell lineage formation. In an effort to understand the consequences of earlier infection, Jennifer used ex utero embryo culture techniques to infect mouse embryos. She found that ZIKV infection at the two-cell stage can cause developmental arrest, whereas infection at the blastocyst stage has shown reduced fetal proper (SOX2-expressing cells) fate. These results suggest that preimplantation ZIKV infection causes embryonic demise or cell fate defects depending on when infection occurred.

Recent Publications

Frum T , Watts JL, and Ralston A. TEAD4, YAP1 and WWTR1 prevent the premature onset of pluripotency prior to the 16-cell stage. Development vol. 146,17 dev179861. 6 Sep. 2019, doi:10.1242/dev.179861

Watts J, Lokken A, Moauro A, and Ralston A. Capturing and Interconverting Embryonic Cell Fates in a Dish. Cell Fate in Mammalian Development, Hadjantonakis AK and Plusa B, Eds. Book Chapter (2018).

jennifer watts summer research programOutreach Project

Summer Research Opportunities Program (SROP) at MSU is a 10-week research-intensive experience where students from the US and its territories receive training at an R01 institution. Jennifer has mentored 47 students during 2017, 2019, and 2020 from disciplines in the Social/Behavior Sciences (SBS) and STEM. As a graduate mentor, she conducts weekly meetings to assist students on science communications in forms of chalk talks (SROP talks), formal presentations, and written deliverables. Additionally, Jennifer participates in the MSU Girls’ Math and Science Day hosted by the Graduate Women in Science organization. Jennifer performs enthusiastic demonstrations and presentations to encourage middle school aged girls about STEM.

Alexandra Yaw

Research

Alex’s project focuses on understanding how shift work causes reduced fertility. Over 21 million Americans are employed in rotating or nighttime shift work, and the circadian system, which coordinates the timing of physiological functions and behaviors, is severely disrupted in shift work. Using a light-based murine model of shift work, this project aims to determine the influence of lighting shifts on circadian locomotor behavior, synchrony of hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis circadian rhythms, and gonadal function

Recent Publications

cellsOutreach Project

Alex is developing a virtual scientist visitation toolkit focused on informing students about the importance of sleep and the influence of light on health.