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Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE)

Molecular Determinants of Developmental Defects

    Center Members Cropped

The University of Louisville Birth Defects Center has received a $9.1 million National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant, from the National Center for Research resources (NCRR) for research that could lead to developments in the prevention and treatment of birth defects. The five-year renewal grant continues to recognize the Birth Defects Center as a Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) that will bring together researchers from diverse disciplines to develop methods to prevent, diagnose and treat birth defects. "Birth defects are the single leading cause of infant mortality," said Robert M. Greene, Ph.D., Chair of the Department of Molecular, Cellular and Craniofacial Biology and Director of the Birth Defects Center. "While we've made great strides in recent years, the causes of over 70 percent of birth defects remain unknown. That is what makes the work of our Center so critical."

The COBRE grant has enabled the University of Louisville Birth Defects Center to develop a critical mass of investigators, augment the ability of the Center to achieve its biomedical research mission, and enhance selected junior investigator's research expertise and productivity so as to facilitate their ability to compete independently for NIH research grant support. Each of these COBRE-supported junior investigators is mentored by an established, well-funded senior biomedical research faculty member recognized for his/her scientific expertise in the area of the junior investigator's research proposal. According to Dr. Greene, senior faculty "…should be able, in fact should often be made, to reverse roles, as this might encourage more supportive and sympathetic attitudes. This is in no sense paternalism," said Dr. Greene, "but rather assistance that should be viewed as an investment in the general welfare of the COBRE and the University.….an investment whose returns result in an increase in the quality of all faculty."

According to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 17% of U.S. children under 18 years of age have a developmental disability. In most instances, the cause of the disability is not known. Each of the COBRE-supported junior investigator's research projects addresses significant, unanswered questions in the general areas of developmental biology and/or birth defects, and may have a potentially significant impact on major biomedical health care issues. COBRE-supported junior investigators, and their research areas, include:


Jun Cai, Ph.D., Asst. Professor, Dept. Pediatrics, School of Medicine

     Intermittent Hypoxia-Mediated Oligodendrocyte Defects in a Murine Model of

     Gestational Sleep Apnea


Jixiang Ding, Ph.D.,  Assoc. Professor, Dept. Molecular, Cellular & Craniofacial

    Biology, School of Dentistry

     The Role of TGF-ß Modulators in Vertebral Development


Zi-Jian Lan, Ph.D., Asst. Professor, Dept. Molecular, Cellular & Craniofacial Biology,

    School of Dentistry

     The Role of Patched 1 and Suppressor of Fused in the Ovary


Qingxian Lu, Ph.D., Asst. Prof., Dept. Opthalmology & Visual Sciences,

    School of Medicine

     Phagocytosis and MerTK Family of the Receptor Tyrosine Kinase


Rachel Neal, Ph.D.,  Asst. Prof., Dept of Environmental & Occupational Health     Sciences, School of Public Health

     Biomarkers of Neurotoxicity Associated with Fetal Tobacco Smoke Exposure”


M. Michele Pisano, Ph.D.  Prof., Dept. Molecular, Cellular & Craniofacial Biology,

    School of Dentistry

     Pre- and Postnatal Tobacco Smoke Exposure: Effects on Neurocognitive Development


Ratnam Seelan, Ph.D., Asst. Prof. - Dept. Molecular, Cellular & Craniofacial Biology

    School of Dentistry

     Regulation of Neural Crest Cell Migration by SDF1-CXCR4 Signaling


Paul Tiwana, D.D.S., M.D. – Asst. Prof. - Dept. Surgical & Hospital Dentistry,

    School of Dentistry

     Infant Age at the Time of Cleft Palate Repair:Effects on Language Development


Nancy Barr

NancyBarr.jpgMs. Barr is the Unit Business Manager and Administrative Associate of the COBRE (She Who Must Be Obeyed). She assists COBRE investigators with accounts, budgets, and forms associated with sponsored programs. Ms. Barr assists COBRE investigators and the PI with preparation, review, and approval of research budgets, monitoring financial activities and preparation of monthly financial management reports.

She also serves as our Program Coordinator, providing administrative support to the COBRE PI and COBRE investigators. She oversees daily office support operations as they relate to the COBRE including coorespondence, scheduling of meetings/appointments for the PI, coordination ofbi-weekly laboratory research work conferences and Advisory Committee meetings, coordination of travel by the External Advisory Committee for on-site visits, and coordination of travel for COBRE investigators to scientific meetings.


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