Tissue Interaction and Determination in Early Heart Development and Cardiac Valve Formation
Research in the Sugi laboratory focuses on cardiac development using genetically engineered mouse models, primary cell cultures and in ovo whole chick embryo cultures with cellular and molecular biological approaches.
The current research focus of the Sugi laboratory is endocardial cushion remodeling (Fig. 1) and prevalvular fibroblast differentiation (Fig. 2) that are critical developmental events for four-chambered heart formation and valvuloseptal morphogenesis.
Valvuloseptal defects are among the most common and serious of congenital heart defects (CHDs). Mesenchymalized endocardial cushions undergo distal outgrowth, fusion and remodeling into membranous ventricular septum and atrioventricular (AV) valves. Failure of these processes results in several human CHDs. Despite the clinical relevance, the mechanisms governing how mesenchymalized AV cushions remodel into normal membranous septum and valves have only begun to be elucidated. The Sugi laboratory has shown that BMP signaling constitutes one component of the multiple pathways that regulate formation and maturation of AV endocardial cushions (Sugi et al., 2004; Okagawa et al., 2007; Inai et al., 2008; 2013; Saxon et al., 2017).
The Sugi laboratory currently focuses on elucidating cellular and molecular biological mechanisms by which BMP-2 signaling regulates endocardial cushion cell differentiation into prevalvular fibroblasts by interacting with molecules in other regulatory pathways. The significance of our research project is the combined experimental approach using mouse molecular genetics (Fig. 3), 3-D in vitro cell cultures (Fig. 4) and chick in ovo manipulation with gene transfer (Fig. 5).
Education Interests and Activities
Undergraduate Mentoring: The Sugi laboratory hosts undergraduate students for their Independent Study and Bachelors Essay research projects. The Sugi laboratory also welcomes undergraduate students in the MUSC Student Undergraduate Research Program (SURP) and SC INBRE.
Master Students: The Sugi laboratory welcomes motivated students in the master’s program. Positions are available for the students in participating in the ongoing research projects on cardiovascular development. Prior commitment in the cardiovascular research is not required.
MCBP 762: Mechanisms of Development (Developmental Biology and Animal Models): Sugi, Y., Course Director. This course will provide a general overview of fundamental developmental mechanisms focused on a comparison of different model organisms. This course covers early and intermediate developmental events (gastrulation and cardiovascular), mouse molecular genetics, epigenetics and gene regulation, perinatal maturation through induction of stemness in differentiated adult cells and regenerative medicine. Comparative systems discussed include Drosophila, zebrafish, Xenopus, chick, mouse models and humans.