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Lee Niswander, PhD

Principal Investigator

The Niswander lab investigates novel mouse models of embryonic development with the overarching goal of providing insights into fundamental developmental processes, major human birth defects and potential clinical therapies. Her studies over the years have provided a unique perspective on the molecular mechanisms that control the formation of the central and peripheral nervous system, as well as lung, limb, and neuromuscular development. The current focus of the lab is on the common and severe birth defect wherein the neural tube (NT) fails to close resulting in neural tube defects (NTDs) such as spina bifida. Using a combination of genetic, molecular, biochemical and cell biological assays they have identified numerous genes involved in NT closure and determined their mechanisms of action. Niswander’s lab also developed innovative methods for time-lapse imaging of the living mammalian embryo to couple molecular insights to the regulation of cell behaviors that drive NT closure. Environmental factors clearly influence human NTD risk, and her lab uses mouse models to explore gene-environment interactions that influence NTD incidence.

Facts about neural tube defects: 
- Neural tube defects are the occur in 1/1000
  births worldwide (Zaganjor et. al., 2016)
- The two most common birth defects
  are anencephaly and spina bifida

- Over 200 mutations have been associated 
  with neural tube defects in the mouse model

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Rocky Mountain Membrane Traficking Meeting
Boulder, CO
July 24th 2020
Molecular Cell and Developmental Biology program Retreat
Vail, Colorado
October 2020



- Congratulations Dr. Sofia Pezoa on your successful thesis defense!

- Congratulations David Engelhardt on your funding acquisition: Signaling and Cellular Regulation training grant!

- Congratulations Marisela for passing your comprehensive examination!

- Congratulations Huili Li on your recent publications:

"Low folate concentration impacts mismatch repair deficiency in neural tube defects"

Epigenomics. (2019). Huili Li1,2, Xiaolei Wang1, Huizhi Zhao1, Fang Wang1, Yihua Bao1, Jin Guo1, Shaoyan Chang1, Lihua Wu1, Haiqin Cheng1, Shuyuan Chen1, Jizhen Zou1, Xiaodai Cui1, Lee Niswander2, Richard H Finnell3,4, Hongyan Wang**,3,5,6 & Ting Zhang*, 

"Genetic contribution of retinoid related genes to neural tube defects"

Journal of Human Mutation.(2018). Huili Li1,2, Jing Zhang 1 , Shuyuan Chen 3 , Fang Wang 2 , Ting Zhang 2 *, Lee Niswander 1 *.

"Does DNA methylation provide a link between folate and neural tube closure?"

Epigenomics. (2018). Huili Li and Lee Niswander.

"Zinc deficiency causes neural tube defects through attenuation of p53 ubiquitylation"

Development (2018). Huili Li, Jing Zhang, Lee Niswander. doi: 10.1242/dev.169797

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