Back Row (Left to Right): Karen Boschen, Scott Parnell, Eric Fish, Haley Mendoza
Front Row (Left to Right): Debbie Dehart, Laura Murdaugh
Research in my laboratory is focused on understanding the pathology and related pathogenic mechanisms underlying prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE) and other teratogens during early gestation. PAE induces a wide spectrum of deficits depending on a multitude on factors, including timing and amount of exposure, genetics and nutrition. In order to better understand this spectrum of effects, part of my research is aimed at understanding the developmental stage-dependent effects of early PAE on the structure and function of the central nervous system. Using a mouse model of FASD, high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) and a behavioral phenotyping battery, my lab works to define the developmental stage-dependent effects of ethanol exposure during early gestation with the goal of improving clinical diagnosis, as well as uncovering pathogenic mechanisms.
A large part of my lab’s focus is on the cellular events following ethanol exposure that lead to the observed dysmorphologies, with a particular emphasis on ethanol-induced perturbations of sonic hedgehog (Shh) and other developmental signaling pathways. We also conduct research using genetically engineered mice and whole transcriptome sequencing (RNA-seq) in order to better understand the genes that alter susceptibility to the detrimental effects of early PAE.
In exploring the teratogenicity of other drugs of abuse, we have recently discovered that the frequently abused synthetic cannabinoids are highly teratogenic, similar to prenatal ethanol exposure. Further work in the lab is examining the mechanisms by which these cannabinoids impact the developing brain and potential interaction with ethanol during early development.