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Brenda J. Rongish, Ph.D.

October 1, 2015

Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology
University of Kansas Medical Center


Primary Research:

Research in my lab is interdisciplinary and focuses on the dynamic nature of early avian cardiovascular morphogenesis. I am part of a Computational Imaging Group - which includes two other PIs - Charles Little and Andras Czirok. We perform time-lapse imaging in wild-type and transgenic quail – the latter developed by Dr. Rusty Lansford (Children’s Hospital LA). Our studies make use of automated microscopes plus open-source software of our design. Our empirical data show that during cardiovascular development, both precursor cells and their ECM move. Forces driven by collective motility of entire sheets/plates of primordial cells shape the nascent heart. Our time-lapse recordings provide a way to observe, unambiguously, the entire morphogenetic process. Moreover, in collaboration with biomedical engineers and biophysicists we calculate and analyze both cell and ECM behaviors simultaneously (trajectories, velocities, directed vs. random motility of cells) as the heart forms.

Two current projects in my lab are:

VEGF’s role in cardiogenesis
Our ability to measure motility of endothelial, endocardial, and myocardial precursors, as well as to observe gross cardiac phenotypes following experimental manipulation of VEGF signaling, allow a careful analysis of the role of VEGF during early heart morphogenesis. Preliminary data suggest that VEGF-induced malformations of the great vessels lead to major cardiac anomalies.

scaRNAs and cardiac anomalies (collaboration with Dr. Doug Bittel, Children's Mercy Hospital, Kansas City, MO)
Doug Bittel and his research group at CMH are leading a collaborative effort with my group to study scaRNAs - a subset of small nucleolar RNAs that are essential for the biochemical modification and maturation of small nuclear RNAs (spliceosomal RNAs). We are studying the role of these noncoding RNAs in early cardiac development. Dr. Bittel's group is exploring the role played by scaRNAs in spliceosomal stability and function - and the relationship to congenital heart defects such as Tetralogy of Fallot. My group uses our imaging system and computational analyses to characterize the influence of key scaRNAs in regulating cardiac precursor cell movements and heart morphogenesis using the quail embryo model system.

To learn more about Dr. Rongish and her work, visit the lab website at 

Recent Publications:

  1. Aleksandrova, A., Czirok, A., Szabo, A., Filla, M.B., Hossain, M.J., Whelan, P.F, Lansford, R.D., and Rongish, B.J. Convective tissue movements play a major role in avian endocardial morphogenesis. Dev. Biol. 363(2):358-61 (2012). PMCID: PMC3288244
  2. Loganathan, R., Potetz, B.R., Rongish, B.J., and Little, C.D. Spatial Anisotropies and Temporal Fluctuations in Extracellular Matrix Network Texture during Early Embryogenesis. PLoS ONE, 7(5):e38266, 2012 PMCID:PMC3365023
  3. Cui, C., Filla, M.B., Jones, E.A.V., Lansford, R., Cheuvront, T., Al-Roubaie, S., Rongish, B.J., and Little, C.D. Embryogenesis of the first circulating endothelial cells. PLoS ONE, 8(5):e60841, 2013
  4. Aleksandrova, A., Rongish, B.J., Little, C.D., and Czirok, A. Active cell and ECM movements during development. Methods Mol Biol. 2015;1189:123-32. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4939-1164-6_9 PMCID:PMC3288244
  5. Loganathan, R., Little, C.D. Joshi, P., Filla, M.B., Cheuvront, T.J., Lansford, R., Rongish, B.J. Identification of emergent motion compartments in the amniote embryo, Organogenesis, Jan 26:1-15 epub, 2015
  6. Aleksandrova, A., Czirok, A., Kosa, E., Galkin, O., Cheuvront, T.J., and Rongish, B.J. The endoderm and myocardium join forces to drive early heart tube assembly. Developmental Biology, 2015; 404:40-54. doi: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2015.04.016

Lab Members:
Michael Filla – Senior Research Associate
Alan Petersen – Senior Research Associate

Former PhD student, Anastasiia Aleksandrova - currently a research fellow in the lab of Ian Scott at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto.

Collaborative Relationships:

Computational Imaging Group (Charles Little, PhD and Andras Czirok, PhD) - See

Edina Kosa, MSc and Dona Greta Isai (Czirok lab, KUMC)

Sandra Rugonyi, PhD (OHSU, Portland, OR) – VEGF project

Anastasiia Aleksandrova, PhD (Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Canada) – VEGF project

Doug Bittel, PhD (Children’s Mercy Hospital, KC, MO) – scaRNA project

Rusty Lansford, PhD (Children’s Hospital Los Angeles; LA, CA) – transgenic quail and CV imaging

Rajprasad Loganathan, PhD (Johns Hopkins, Baltimore, MD) – computational analyses of cell movements and ECM properties