Animal Developmental Biology Laboratory
Overview of Our Laboratory
Our lab focuses on identifying mechanisms that regulate the development of a single cell fertilized cell to a functional multicellular animal. Signaling pathways and cellular events are most active during this stage. Hence, this serves as a perfect platform in identifying how different substances or exposures could affect normal developmental program which will then shed a light on what cellular or molecular mechanism is affected during treatment.
Some of our researches include teratogenic* mechanism, factors that can affect blood vessel and muscle development, and identifying the molecular changes in the tissue. Data from this type of research can identify what can affect the formation of our different organs and how to repair it using its natural developmental program.
*Teratogens are substances or exposures that results to malformations of the embryo (birth defect)
What we are doing and what we hope to contribute
Testing the Effect of Different Substances on Embryogenesis and Angiogenesis
The Institute of Biology has been actively involved in screening endemic species of plants that may have anti-cancer properties. The cytotoxic effect of these plant extracts towards cancer cell lines has been an effective screening method for identifying possible candidates for further drug development studies. It is of general notion that since these chemicals are found from nature, the cytotoxic effect on normal cells could possibly be minimal. Examining the effect of these previously screened plant extracts for effects on embryonic development could reveal three properties of these plant-derived products.
- First, whether these extracts can be a possible therapeutical approach for pregnant women who are suffering from cancer. Currently, pregnant women who are diagnosed with cancer face the dilemma of undergoing normal cancer treatment and risking deleterious effect on their growing fetus. Typical cytotoxic drugs have a low molecular weight and can cross the placenta. In our lab, the plant-derived extracts will be tested for their potential to cross the placenta by examining the effects on the growing embryos.
- Second, whether the cytotoxicity of the plant extracts is also applicable on normal cells. It is well-established that the problem on some common cancer therapies, such as chemotheraphy and radiation therapy, is that they kill both cancerous and healthy cells. In our lab, the effect on normal tissue could be simultaneously evaluated with embryogenesis.
- Third, whether the fetal malformation is brought about by the possible anti-angiogenic effect of the plant-derived products. It is known that anti-cancer drugs can be effective by inhibiting the formation of blood vessels during tumor formation. When blood vessels are not formed, the tumor will not be supplied with enough nutrients to further develop. During gestation, the process of blood vessel formation can be observed during early stages of development. Failure of embryonic development at early stage could indicate angiogenesis-related effects. This result will be informative on both development and cancer biology.
Establishing our Histomolecular Facility
Teratogens are substances or exposures that can negatively affect normal development. Examples of these are alcohol, nicotine, radiation, malnutrition, and some medicines such as high dosage of Vitamin A and blood thinners. Understanding the signaling pathways that are utilized by the teratogenic mechanisms may help in alleviating the effects and in predicting possible teratogenic outcomes during teratogenic exposures. Furthermore, therapeutic interventions may also be formulated by examining the specific mechanisms of these substances.
In our lab, a facility for histomolecular examination of the effect of different natural-derived products is being estabished. A mice facility that could accommodate breeding for acquiring pregnant mice. The pregnant mice are treated with the natural products known to be of biomedical value. The embryos are initially assessed morphologically then will be processed for histological parameters. Identification of dysregulated signaling pathways will be done through immunostaining of molecular makers. The effects of the substances on different molecular markers will be consolidated and analyzed for other possible use. The facility can also be utilized by any researcher that is interested in histological changes or molecular changes or both. This transcends to different fields in biology such as plant biology, physiology, genetics, and ecology.