Kate McCusker's research photos selected for the covers of Disease Models & Mechanisms and Regeneration

The article published in Disease Models & Mechanisms is titledUnderstanding positional cues in salamander limb regeneration: implications for optimizing cell-based regenerative therapies” and is co-authored by Dr. David M. Gardiner of the Department of Developmental and Cell Biology at the University of California, Irvine where McCusker is currently doing research as a postdoctoral scholarYou can access the article at http://dmm.biologists.org/content/7/6/593

The article published in Regeneration is titled “Position-specific induction of ectopic limbs in non-regenerating blastemas on axolotl forelimbs” and is also coauthored by Dr. David M. Gardiner and  Jeffrey Lehrberg. You can access the article at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/enhanced/doi/10.1002/reg2.10?isReportingDone=true

Kate conducted her graduate research at UMass Amherst in the laboratory of Dr. Dominique Alfandari, where she studied craniofacial development in frog embryos. In Dr. Alfandari’s lab, she became fascinated by the control of growth and shape during developmental processes. During her thesis project she focused on understanding molecular mechanisms that control the migration of Cranial Neural Crest (CNC) cells, a population of stem-like cells that undergo a large-scale migration and contribute to many structures in the developing face. During this work she discovered a novel interaction between the metalloproteases ADAM13 and 9 with the cell-adhesion molecule Cadherin-11. Kate found that ADAM processing of cadherin-11 promoted the migration of CNC cells by 1) decreasing cell-cell adhesion, 2) by inhibiting the stimulation of canonical Wnt signaling, and 3) by generating a secreted cadherin-11 fragment that has a pro-migratory biological function. So far Kate’s graduate work has resulted in five publications.

Over the last four years, Kate’s postdoctoral work in the Gardiner/Bryant Lab has focused on the process of vertebrate limb regeneration using the Mexican axolotl. In particular, she is interested in understanding how the blueprint, or pattern, of the missing structures is established in the early regenerate, known as the blastema. She is fascinated by the simple observation that the limb blastema always replaces exactly what it is missing – amputate the limb at the wrist and the blastema forms a hand, amputate at the upper arm, and the blastema forms an elbow, forearm, and a hand.  She is currently funded by a postdoctoral fellowship from the American Cancer Society to support her research using the axolotl limb regenerate as a model system to study how tissue microenvironments control the behavior of cancer-like cells. So far her postdoctoral work has resulted in four publications.