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Developmental Biology Research


Cells in robust systems such as tissues in the human body require methods to signal one another in order to survive and perform complex functions. These signaling pathways are critical for every stage of life. The same processes involved with signaling a group of cells to develop a nervous system in an embryo can regulate the development of a tumor in an organ. In order to understand cancer at the cellular level, the signaling processes for normal cells must be understood. Once normal cellular processes are understood, more comprehensive studies on signaling processes leading to oncogenesis can be undertaken. We can ask questions such as "how do cancer cells communicate with one another?" and "how do cancer cells communicate with normal cells and vice versa?"

With these questions in mind, I researched cell-cell signaling at the Sougata Roy Laboratory at the University of Maryland from Summer 2017-Summer 2018. During this time I also served as the lab manager for the Roy lab, overseeing tasks related to business and the regular operations.


Using fruit fly model organisms, the lab investigated growth factor signaling in fruit fly tracheas. Research found that growth of tissues was driven by signaling molecules that were sent from source cells to target cells via fibrous extensions. These images show fluorescently tagged molecules being moved by the fibrous extensions. More information about this investigation can be found here.

In normal growth conditions, cells in tissues are in much lower oxygen concentrations than what is found in atmospheric air. Growing cells in atmospheric air could possibly prove to be a hyperoxic environment for cells, impeding their normal growth. 

To test this hypothesis, I led the development and construction of a hypoxic chamber to create an environment for fruit fly growth. The chamber was built using polycarbonate, and nitrogen-oxygen gas mixtures were used to modulate the oxygen concentration inside the chamber. An investigation is currently being conducted to discover the effects of hypoxia on gene expression of flies growing in the chamber. 

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