Indiana University of Pennsylvania, B.S., M.S.
Utah State University, Ph.D.
I am interested in studying hematopoiesis, or how immature bone marrow cells give rise to all the mature, circulating blood cells. My research focuses on one particular cell lineage, the megakaryocytes. These large, polyploid cells mature and then break up into little pieces called thrombocytes or platelets. Before this occurs, megakaryocytes manufacture a number of molecules that perform the important "blood-clotting" functions of circulating platelets. A number of undergraduate students have been involved in this research. We study how various combinations of growth factors, including thrombopoietin produce mature megakaryocytes. We use a computer-controlled microscope and digital image analysis to directly measure the amount of "blood-clotting" molecules manufactured in individual cells in response to these growth factors. Growth factors control hematopoiesis, as well as restore normal populations of blood cells after such medical treatments as radiation or chemotherapy and bone marrow transplantation. Therefore, understanding what actually controls the functional capacity of individual megakaryocytes is important, because the quality and quantity of platelets produced by these megakaryocytes are vital to good health.