Development, Stem Cells, and Regeneration

The formation of an entire organism from a single cell is one of the most remarkable processes in biology. It requires coordinated regulation of cell division, differentiation, polarity and migration. Ultimately, individual cells, often from disparate lineages with unique properties, assemble into tissues with specialized functions. Delineating the molecular regulation of these fascinating processes is not only fundamental to understanding the rules that govern tissue and organ formation, but also mechanisms of homeostasis which, when disrupted, lead to the progression of many disease states.  Remarkable advances in optical microscopy and live cell imaging now make it possible to visualize complex processes from the sub-cellular level to single cells and from tissues to whole embryos. Combined with traditional genetics, powerful gene-editing technologies and genome-level analyses, developmental biologists now have an unprecedented set of tools available to probe mechanistic underpinnings of complex biological processes. Research at UVA features rich and diverse training in modern Developmental Biology from a creative and internationally-recognized faculty. Our research in developmental biology employs the latest cellular, molecular, biophysical and microscopic technologies to perform studies in engineered mutant mice, Drosophila, Xenopus, C. elegans, and Zebrafish to define mechanisms that coordinately regulate tissue morphogenesis.

Insights into these fundamental developmental mechanisms will enable scientists to modulate the commitment of pluripotent human stem cells toward specific cell types and organoids. Breakthrough discoveries in fundamental developmental mechanisms are thus a prerequisite for tissue engineering and regenerative medicine applications. Understanding the mechanisms that govern tissue development is also needed to promote tissue regeneration, and for defining processes that are dysregulated in the progression of prevalent diseases, including cancer, atherosclerosis and neurodegeneration. New efforts are under way to bridge developmental biologists with genomic and translational scientists to create a Developmental Genomics Center at UVA. A major goal of these collaborative efforts will be to interrogate developmentally related databases, identify gene mutations that may cause pediatric disorders, and test them in our in vivo and stem cell models. This will provide an avenue for disease gene discovery and the development of patient-specific therapeutic strategies.


  • Thomas H. Barker
    My lab is primarily focused on both understanding and manipulating cell-ECM mechanotransduction pathways in homeostasis and disease. Our primary interest is in understanding how cells’ changing microenvironment direct their phenotype and initiate patholo
  • Chalfant, Charles Edward
    Hematology and Oncology, Cell Biology, Lipid Signaling, Cancer Cell Signaling, and RNA Biology
  • Christopher Deppmann
    Elucidating and Understanding the Mechanisms Underlying Nervous System Development
  • Douglas W. DeSimone
    Cell Adhesion and Adhesion-Dependent Cell Signaling in Vertebrate Morphogenesis
  • Noelle Dwyer
    Neural Development; Cell Division in Neural Stem Cells; Axon Outgrowth and Guidance
  • Adrian J. Halme
    Regeneration and Systemic Responses to Tissue Damage
  • Barry T. Hinton
    Morphogenesis of the Developing Wolffian/Epididymal duct
  • Karen Kemper Hirschi
    Understanding Cellular and Molecular Mechanisms Leading to Blood Vessel Formation
  • Hao Jiang
    Regulation of stem cell function and tumorigenicity by epigenetic and novel biophysical mechanisms
  • Raymond E. Keller
    Cellular and molecular mechanisms of morphogenesis
  • Sarah C Kucenas
    The role of glia in the development, maintenance and regeneration of the nervous system
  • Saurabh Kulkarni
    Cell Biology
  • Gordon W. Laurie
    Role of Prosecretory Mitogen ‘Lacritin’ in Epithelial Homeostasis, Secretion and Innate Defense
  • Xiaorong Liu
    Developing novel neuroprotection strategies to preserve vision in glaucoma
  • Eyleen Jorgelina O’Rourke
    Obesity and Aging
  • David Parichy
    Long-distance communication by specialized cellular projections, intersections of hormonal controls with local mechanisms of differentiation and morphogenesis, establishment and recruitment of post-embryonic stem cells during development and regeneration,
  • Kwon-Sik Park
    Mechanisms of tumor progression and homeostasis
  • Kodi S. Ravichandran
    Apoptotic cell clearance mechanisms in health and disease
  • Sarah Siegrist
    Regulation of neural stem cell proliferation by extracellular factors, local and systemic. Intrinsic signaling programs regulating neural stem cell fate decisions: death versus survival. Functional and molecular similarities between Drosophila and mammal
  • Ann E. Sutherland
    Cell Matrix Interactions In Mouse Development
  • Bernard V. Thisse
    Molecular control of embryonic development
  • Christine I. Thisse
    Molecular Mechanisms of Early Vertebrate Development and Morphogenesis. Application to Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine
  • Bettina Winckler
    Endosomal function and dysfunction in neurons
  • David Wotton
    Regulation of Gene Expression, Development and Tumor Progression by TGF beta Signaling
  • Hui Zong
    Mouse models of brain cancers