Research Laboratories & Programs
Many Department of Pediatrics faculty members have their own laboratories and programs, where they work to generate new knowledge through research.
Faculty pursue a wide range of research interests, such as childhood cancer, stem cell therapies, global health, transplantation, type 1 diabetes, kidney disease, social and behavioral health, newborn care, and childhood health conditions that lead to chronic diseases in adults.
To explore their research interests, visit our faculty bio pages or the individual labs and programs pages below.
General Pediatrics and Adolescent Health
Healthy Environments and Stigmatized Youth Program
The Healthy Environments and Stigmatized Youth Program conducts both qualitative and quantitative research on a wide variety of social factors and how they are associated with the well-being of adolescents and young adults, with particular attention to vulnerable groups such as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer/questioning (LGBTQ) youth, those with disabilities, and those who are overweight. Social factors include characteristics of the family and peer group (e.g. bullying experience); school resources, climate, and characteristics (e.g. presence of a gender/sexuality student organization); and features of the neighborhood or community (e.g. political climate, public policy). We capitalize on existing youth surveillance data to create multilevel quantitative datasets for hierarchical analysis. Qualitative methods with youth, parents, and professionals include interviews, focus groups, and other novel techniques.
Shlafer Program for Research on Criminal Justice & Health
Shlafer Program for Research on Criminal Justice and Health conducts both qualitative and quantitative research on the intersections of criminal justice and health. Our work includes a focus on the impacts of maternal incarceration for child health and development, with an intentional focus on the experiences of pregnant women in prison.
Youth Health & Housing Lab
Led by Principal Investigator Janna R. Gewirtz O’Brien, MD, MPH, the Youth Health and Housing Lab leads community-engaged cross-sector work at the intersection of housing, healthcare and public health to optimize health and bolster resilience among youth experiencing homelessness. Our interdisciplinary team is housed within the Division of General Pediatrics and Adolescent Health at the University of Minnesota School of Medicine, and partners with youth-serving agencies, governmental public health and healthcare institutions and, most importantly, youth. Our team is committed to a strengths-based, anti-oppressive and trauma-informed approach rooted in Positive Youth Development. We hope to uplift youth voice, and center equity in every aspect of the work.
Hematology, Oncology and BMT & Cellular Therapy
Immunobiology and transplantation are the main research interest in the Blazar Laboratory. Project areas include: Graft-versus-host disease, regulatory T cells, immune recovery and regeration post-transplant, graft-versus-leukemia and genetic manipulations and reprograming of immature and mature cells.
The Bosnakovski lab is focused on tissue regeneration and understanding the molecular and cellular mechanisms of FSHD and sarcomas. The current work includes exploring the molecular and cellular effects of DUX4 expression in skeletal muscle and studying antifibrotic drugs on an FSHD mouse model. The lab is also modeling the initiation of CIC-DUX4 pediatric sarcomas and exploring novel epigenetic-targeted therapies for Ewing sarcomas.
Congenital heart defects and muscular dystrophies are common hereditary diseases affecting children, but effective treatments for most of these disorders are scarce. In the Chan Laboratory, they are working on deciphering the molecular regulation of how these diseases develop and establishing stem cell-based therapies to combat them.
Kyba Laboratory of Experimental Tissue Regeneration
The Laboratory of Experimental Tissue Regeneration, led by Dr. Michael Kyba, focuses on factors regulating tissue degeneration and regeneration, with a view towards using cell therapy for regenerative therapy.
The Largaespada lab works to exploit mutagenesis for cancer gene discovery. Some key methods used include: Sleeping Beauty, new mouse models, molecular biology, Neurofibromatosis Type 1, sarcoma and brain tumors.
Dr. Moriarity’s laboratory is working on studying the genetics of pediatric cancer, including sarcomas and brain tumors, to identify novel therapeutic targets to better treat pediatric cancer patients.
The Panoskaltsis-Mortari laboratory is centered on the field of regenerative medicine. We study tissue engineering from stem cells using two approaches:
- Decellularized whole organ scaffolds integrated with sophisticated bioreactors
- 3D Bioprinting using extrusion, suspension, and laser-assisted techniques
The Saydam Lab works to develop novel therapeutic drugs, extracellular vesicles (EV)-based gene delivery tools, and patient serum/EV-based biomarker screening tools for improved treatment and monitoring of brain tumors.
The Tolar Laboratory focuses on finding new ways of treating children with lethal diseases. Additional research areas include:
- Reducing the negative effects of stem cell transplantation
- Creation and use of induced pluripotent stem cells
- Gene therapy using gene addition
- Gene editing
The Gale laboratory studies pathogenesis mechanisms of fungi, with a focus on Candida albicans - a leading cause of fungal disease in immunocompromised patients. Our interests include fungal morphogenesis, host-pathogen interactions, and fungal community structure in the gut and its links to disease.
Ingolfsland Laboratory: Retinopathy of Prematurity Research Program
The Ingolfsland Laboratory investigates the role of specific clinical comorbidities experienced by preterm infants on the development of ROP.
Satrom Laboratory for Neonatal Jaundice Research
Dr. Katie Satrom's research seeks to optimize the management of neonatal jaundice in two distinctly vulnerable patient populations – preterm infants and infants born in low resource settings globally.
The Vuong Laboratory is interested in dissecting the role of the microbiome in the development of neural circuits and behaviors in health and neurodevelopmental disorders. Project areas include: host-microbe interactions, developmental neurobiology, genetic and environmental influences on microbiome and brain development. in vivo neural circuit activity, and microbiota modulated behaviors.
Pediatric Developmental Neurobehavioral Science Research Group
Georgieff Laboratory in Developmental Nutritional Neuroscience
The Georgieff Laboratory in Developmental Nutritional Neuroscience focuses on neonatal iron nutrition & metabolism and the developing brain, and specifically the hippocampus, which underlies recognition memory processing. We now understand through the work of our laboratory that adult mental health has its beginnings in the perinatal period and that failure to provide the optimal environment in that period can have life-long consequences. Thus, the real cost to society of early life adversity, including nutrient deficits, is the lost educational and job potential because of failure to “construct” the brain during its critical periods of development.
The Tran Lab investigates the effects of early-life iron deficiency on the regulation of neural gene expression. Additional research interest include:
- Learning and memory
- Neonatal ischemic stroke
- Molecular biology of nicotinic acetylcholine receptor regulator
Pediatric Infectious Disease
Infection is the leading preventable cause of adverse pregnancy outcomes and neurologic disability in children. The Bierle Lab studies host-virus interactions at the maternal-fetal interface and aims to understand how viral infections are transmitted from mother to child and contribute to the development of new vaccines and therapeutics that will improve pregnancy outcomes and children’s health.
Schleiss Laboratory: Cytomegalovirus
Among the causes of congenital and perinatal infections in infants and children, cytomegalovirus (CMV) is the most important, accounting for more neurodevelopmental disability (including hearing loss) in children that any other infectious diseases. The Schleiss Lab studies vaccines aimed at preventing congenital CMV infection in a tractable small animal model, the guinea pig. Translational research in newborn screening and CMV epidemiology in Minnesota is also a major focus of the lab. Finally, we have collaborations with laboratories globally, examining the role of CMV as a co-factor in other diseases of importance in a global pediatric context.
Dr. Thielen’s academic work encompasses both an active adult and pediatric clinical infectious diseases practice and a research program focused on host-pathogen interactions in the human respiratory tract, in particular innate immune signaling pathways induced by viral infections. The Thielen lab is particularly interested in understanding the factors that influence the severity of respiratory viral infections, including viral sequence variants, respiratory microbiota composition and host genetics.
Pediatric Rheumatology, Allergy, & Immunology
In the Binstadt lab, we are interested in understanding the mechanistic links between systemic autoimmune and/or inflammatory diseases and the increased risk of cardiovascular disease associated with these diseases. We also investigate fundamental mechanisms of autoimmune disease pathogenesis.
The Schuldt Lab is located in the Center for Immunology at the University of Minnesota. Our research is focused on understanding the unique immunology of pregnancy and early life. Our goal is to reduce the risk of pregnancy complications, early life infections, and future immune disorders by improving our understanding normal and pathogenic immune development.
Additional Research Labs and Programs
Cusick Laboratory for Global Nutrition Research
Dr. Sarah Cusick’s research aims to elucidate micronutrient and infectious disease interactions, with an ultimate goal of optimizing the health and neurobehavioral development of children living in resource-poor settings.
Islet Autotransplant Research Program
Dr. Melena Bellin’s research is focused on understanding and improving outcomes after islet transplantation. Islet transplant is a specialized procedure in which islets are harvested from the pancreas and infused back in the liver. This procedure can be performed for patients who are having a pancreatectomy to treat chronic pancreatitis (total pancreatectomy with islet autotransplant) or for patients who have type 1 diabetes (alloislet transplant).