The developmental processes underlying the development of organ systems within the vertebrate embryo are almost completely unknown. Classical studies have indicated the need for interactions between different embryonic tissues and these interactions are almost certainly mediated by growth factors. Via signal transduction pathways, these growth factors will activate the gene cascade leading to development of the organ. In order to study formation of a specific organ, it will be necessary to identify and characterize the specific growth factors and downstream transcription factors that are required for its development.
Work in my laboratory is aimed towards understanding the early development of the heart and blood vessels at the molecular level. The heart is the first organ to develop in the vertebrate embryo and so is particularly amenable to investigation. We use embryos of the frog, Xenopus, as the experimental organism. Research focuses on the role of growth factors and receptors and relevant downstream transcription factors in initiating and maintaining the pathways leading to cardiovascular development.