“Toxicant-Responsive Transcriptional Regulators Inhibit Osteogenic Differentiation”
Friday, October 2, 2020
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Nicole Sparks, PhD
UC Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow
Department of Molecular, Cell and Systems Biology
University of California, Riverside
Dr. Nicole Sparks is a Postdoctoral researcher at the University of California Riverside under the guidance of Dr. Nicole zur Nieden and Dr. Martin Riccomagno and a previous UC Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow (2018-2020). Her research efforts have focused on the changes of stem cell fate due to toxicant exposure that associates with skeletal defects. Nicole’s doctoral research (UC Riverside, 2018) has elucidated the adverse effects of “harm-reduction” tobacco products on the cell fate of human embryonic stem cells (hESCs), specifically differentiation into the bone-forming cells—osteoblasts. This research discovered transcriptions factors, necessary for proper bone differentiation, that were negatively impacted by tobacco exposure, potentially uncovering an underlying mechanism between maternal smoking and birth defects. Dr. Sparks has expanded her research to elucidate the role of miRNAs in the adverse outcome pathway associated with pre-natal chemical exposure focusing on bone development. Understanding the mechanisms of chemical action could lead to innovative approaches to diagnose, prevent, and treat skeletal malformations associated with intrauterine chemical exposure. Part of her goals are to contribute to expanding the field of stem cell toxicology. The use of stem cells in toxicology research branches our understanding on how a toxicant can have deleterious effects at the molecular level that can result in birth defects or illness.