Developmental Biology

Developmental Biology

Fewer than 50% of human conceptions survive the first few weeks of embryonic life, and the vast majority of these are lost due to genetic abnormalities. At birth, about 3% of infants have a recognizable birth defect which is typically of genetic origin.

These alarming trends highlight the importance of prenatal development in postnatal health. Indeed, decades of research have taught us that many forms of illnesses suffered later in life can start with biological events that take place long before birth, while the embryo is developing in the womb. Developmental biology is the field that aims to study this process by which organisms grow and develop, encompassing the genetic control of cell growth, differentiation and morphogenesis—the process that gives rise to tissues, organs and anatomy.

Our Research

Our developmental biology research group, led by Dr. Daniel Goldowitz, aims to alleviate the impacts of developmental disorders by studying both single gene and more complex gene network interactions in an experimental model system to drive discovery about normal and abnormal development and to inform new therapeutic interventions.

We combine laboratory experiments and observations with super high-resolution imaging techniques and cutting-edge informatics to study the development of the fetus and track the onset, mechanism, and progression of developmental disorders. In doing this, we aim to better understand how genetic signals involved in the early development of the nervous system can cause neurodegenerative diseases and brain disorders in children and adults. By understanding how the brain develops and is built, we will also be able understand how brain disorders develop.

A major focus of our work is the application of molecular and bioinformatics technologies to study the entire gene regulatory network of the cerebellum, which is an area of the brain that is linked to autism, schizophrenia, mental retardation, and other brain disorders.


Li S, Goldowitz D, Swanson DJ. The requirement of pax6 for postnatal eye development: evidence from experimental mouse chimeras. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 48(7):3292-300. (2007) PMID 17591901

Du X, Jensen P, Goldowitz D, Hamre KM. Wild-type cells rescue genotypically Math1-null hair cells in the inner ears of chimeric mice. Dev. Biol. 305(2):430-8. (2007) PMID 17397818