Research projects

 

Engineering Poultry Reproductive Health

The US Poultry Industry provides an economic output in excess of $440 billion annually, with over 1.5 million people employed. In Delaware, poultry production is the backbone of the state agricultural economy. Critical to this enterprise are robust and sustainable agricultural practices that allow enhanced reproductive efficiencies yielding both higher returns on investment and lower environmental waste. We address this need by employing cross-disciplinary approaches in molecular biology, nutrition, metabolomics, and microbiome studies to engineer high-yielding chicken varieties that provide enhancements in meat and egg production in tandem with robust environmental hardiness.

 

Exploring metabolic drivers of ovarian cancer

Ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer-related death among US women. About 85% of ovarian cancers are diagnosed at Stage 2 or later. A critical caveat in the fight against ovarian cancer is the inability to diagnose the disease in early stages, especially given that diagnosis at Stage 1 has survival rates as high as 98%. Chickens and humans are the only two animal species that develop spontaneous ovarian cancer. Consequently, we employ chicken models to study spontaneous ovarian cancer to identify and develop prognostic biomarkers for ovarian cancer initiation. The laboratory also uses cross-species omics analysis by interrogating chicken models, mouse models, and human samples with respect to their microbiomes to identify and define genetic and epigenetic drivers for different disease stages durian ovarian cancer progression.

 

Defining the role of mitochondrial heterogeneity in prostate and ovarian cancer

Cell-to-cell heterogeneity is an important aspect of physiology during development, disease development, and therapeutics. A key driver of this variability is mitochondrial heterogeneity. This is defined both in terms of the mitochondrial genome and mitochondrial physiology. We study mitochondrial responses to determine its role in cellular stress at the single cell level, and how such stress responses alter their susceptibility to cancer phenotypes. Our studies investigate cell fate in both prostate and ovarian cancers by employing mathematical modeling approaches in conjunction with in-vitro and in-vivo validation.