Basic/Translational Science Research

Cray Laboratory

Birth Defects

Work focuses on understanding of potential teratogenic exposures and its effects on development. We utilize preclinical models to understand the pharmacological effects of prenatal exposures to excess thyroid hormones, drugs to treat depression, and nicotine. 

Bone Wound Healing

Work focuses on compromised bone wound healing and combinatory therapies and devices to overcome complicated bone healing. We utilize preclinical models to interrogate potential therapies to aid in healing and agents that disrupt healing.

Recent Student Research

Durham EmilyRecent Cray Laboratory graduate and NIH/NIDCR F31 recipient Dr. Emily Durham conducted doctoral dissertation research focused on the impact of pharmacological teratogens on stem cells resident to the craniofacial skeleton. Her important work characterized the craniofacial sutures as a novel stem cell niche, demonstrated susceptibility of tis cell population to altered function after teratogen exposures, and suggests as a result of this interaction altered growth can occur during development. Data emanating from this project have been published in several relevant journals and Dr. Durham is currently a Post-Doctoral Scholar at Penn State University.

McHugh Laboratory

Research efforts in the McHugh lab focus on the normal development and pathogenesis of the urinary tract. Studies focus on congenital defects in bladder development and the resulting sequelae associated with obstructive nephropathy and chronic kidney disease (CKD). We have identified a highly unique mouse model known as the megabladder (mgb) mouse that represents the first small animal model of congenital obstructive nephropathy. Recent work has identified the mgb mouse as a genetic model of human congenital megabladder resulting from monoallelic loss-of-function variants in myocardin expression. Children born with this condition develop megabladder (megacystis) and often have associated heart defects.

Studies in Dr. McHugh’s lab have also characterized the complex phenotype associated with Uroplakin1b knockout mice. These animals show altered urothelial morphology and UTI susceptibility as well as duplicated urinary tracts and the development of age-dependent spontaneous hydronephrosis. This work has identified the urothelium as a key player in kidney pathogenesis and development.

Recent Student Research

MosleyDr. Claudia Mosley, a recent graduate of Dr. McHugh’s lab, studied the changes in urothelial development and differentiation within the kidney in response to acute renal injury. Her work identified distinct changes in two specific urothelial cell types - Krt5 and Upk3a cells. Determination of these changes in utero may allow early detection of congenital obstruction permitting better diagnosis, intervention and treatment of chronic kidney disease.

Cadaveric Preservation Research

Balta Laboratory

Human body donors have for long been used to teach anatomy with cadavers being preserved using formaldehyde, which changes the features of the body. In my lab, we have been investigating and assessing alternative preservation methods to embalm human cadavers for education and research. We are also interested in assessing the impact of using those preservation techniques on student learning. Some of the assessment techniques that we use include goniometry, radiological imaging, analytical chemistry and microbiology. This research will help in advancing the way we teach anatomy and provide a better learning experience for students. Moreover, this also attracts clinicians and researchers back into the anatomy lab to use the cadavers as a training tool that can faithfully mimic a living human body.

Recent Student Research

Hawkins CamrynCamryn Hawkins is a current doctoral student within the department who is investigating the utilization of different embalming fluids to improve undergraduate student knowledge and understanding of human anatomy on cadavers. By moving away from traditional fluids used in embalming, we hope to give students a more “life-like” appearance and movement to the cadavers they study.  Through this research we hope to accomplish improving student’s practical examination performances, as well as their overall performance and experience in a human anatomy lab that utilizes cadavers.

Anatomy Education Research

Balta, Burgoon, Kalmar, Quinn and Wingert Laboratories

Educational research within the Division of Anatomy focuses on the pursuit of knowledge and content development in the area of anatomical sciences.  The wide spectrum of educational scholarship our faculty are focused on include: anatomical self-efficacy, curricular reform and innovation, and interprofessional education.

Recent Student Research

Ashley SimonsDr. Ashley Simmons, a recent graduate who studied under Dr. Burgoon, examined gross anatomy education and knowledge in a population of specialty and non-specialty physical therapists. Her studies concluded that physical therapists who specialized show a greater amount of anatomy knowledge than physical therapists who are not specialized, individual specialty areas show diverse anatomy knowledge and that curricula instructional methods in physical therapy school predict anatomic knowledge. Interestingly, the number of years in practice and continuing education courses did predict anatomy knowledge in this study.

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