Dr. Laura Romano
My research is focused on understanding the evolution of diversity. That is, I am interested in the molecular basis of anatomical, physiological, and behavioral differences that exist among organisms. I address the question of “how the zebra got its stripes” from the perspective of developmental biology. This discipline focuses on how the genetic material (i.e. DNA) regulates the transition of a fertilized egg into an adult. Many developmental biologists, including myself, are specifically focused on understanding the functional consequence of changes in genes and/or their transcriptional regulation (i.e. how they are turned ON and OFF); such changes can alter the outcome of embryonic development, including disease susceptibility in humans. I use a marine invertebrate, the sea urchin, as a model system. Over the past few years, I have been analyzing genes that regulate formation of the larval skeleton in the "primitive" pencil urchin. Since publishing a major paper in 2016 (the culmination of a grant from the NIH), I have specifically focused on two genes that allow the skeletogenic cells to migrate to their appropriate destinations within the embryo; these same genes are associated with metastasis in humans. As always, undergraduate students are involved in my research program, often accompanying me to professional conferences held throughout the US.
Lab MembershipsRomano Lab (Principal Investigator/Director)
Web Page: https://denison.edu/people/laura-romano