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Cheryl Helgason Lab

Helgason Lab group photo

The focus of our laboratory is on tissues of the lympho-hematopoietic system, as well as the endocrine and urogenital systems. In general, formation and differentiation of these tissues and organs occurs during later stages of embryogenesis and continues throughout postnatal development. Tissue collection to date has relied on manual microscopic dissection, with the development of techniques for separation of defined tissue layers. We have started with the easier tissues and those which are of particular interest to our laboratory, as well as to the research community at large. In general we have taken intact tissues rather than concentrating on specific cell types within a tissue, thus providing a base line for general studies (i.e. changes in the tissue transcriptome resulting from genetic alterations) and for more detailed analyses by our own and other laboratories.

Our bioinformatic and validation studies have focused on two tissues – the pancreas and the prostate. We have used bioinformatic analyses to determine that genes known to be expressed in these tissues at the time of collection are indeed detected in our libraries. In addition, we have utilized quantitative RT-PCR to determine expression levels of candidates of interest in libraries from these two tissues. Finally, we have established the techniques required for in situ hybridization and whole mount in situ hybridization to establish the expression patterns of our candidates. Future work will involve asking more detailed biological questions related to the regulation of development of these tissues.

Cheryl Helgason

Senior Research Scientist

A Senior Scientist in Cancer Endocrinology at the BC Cancer Agency with a cross appointment to the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of British Columbia. Dr. Helgason established the use of gene targeting technology at the BC Cancer Agency and acts as co-director of the transgenic/gene targeting facility in the BC Cancer Research Centre. In addition, she has expertise in the use of embryonic stem cells as an in vitro model to study the role of various genes in hematopoietic and neuronal development. In addition, Dr. Helgason has extensive experience generating and working with knockout mouse models to determine gene function, with particular emphasis on the development of hematopoietic and immune competence from 12.5dpc onward. Recently, she has become interested in prostate development and the identification of novel tumour markers for immunotherapy purposes.

Teresa Ruiz de Algara

B.Sc.1983, UNAM, Mexico City; M.Sc. 1989, UBC, Vancouver (Zoology).

Teresa brings previous experience in embryo dissection as well as laboratory management to the project. She is primarily responsible for analysis of the literature relating to embryonic development of tissues of interest, tissue dissection, and collection of additional tissue samples for validation studies. In addition, she is responsible for maintaining the mouse colonies and for placing orders of all supplies required for the project. She is currently carrying out duties assigned to 1.5 personnel (tissue collection and mouse maintenance).

Brad Hoffman

B.Sc. (UBC, 1996); Ph.D. (UBC, Department of Wood Science, 2003; Fungal Genetics).

Brad has no previous experience in mammalian developmental biology, but has extensive expertise in cloning and characterization of genes and in gene disruption techniques. For his Ph.D. he identified, studied the regulation of, and knocked out genes involved in the growth and development of a model fungus. He has carried out the bioinformatic analyses on the pancreas libraries and was instrumental in generating the JDRF application for funding for a regenerating pancreas islet library. He has applied for independent funding from the MSFHR and the JDRF based on the results of his work on this project. In addition, he has supervised a directed studies student (Biology 448), is currently supervising a co-op student involved with gene validation studies, and has recruited a summer student for a new gene discovery project.

Ida Zhang

B.Med. (Sept, 1990-Sept, 1995, HeBei Medical Univerisity, China); M.Sc. candidate, Experimental Medicine Progam, UBC.

Ida joined the project after completing one year of her M.Sc. program in Department of Pathology at UBC under the supervision of Dr. Branko Palcic. She had no direct experience in molecular or developmental biology, but was highly recommended and indicated an interest in developmental biology. Her work has focused on bioinformatic analyses of, and validation studies with, the prostate libraries. She is currently examining the expression of selected transcription factors during prostate development and in prostate cancer. She anticipates completion of her M.Sc. by December 2004.

Bogard Zavaglia

Co-op student, UBC (Cell Biology, 2006)

Bogard has experience with microscopy and other general molecular biology skills. His current role in the project is continuing our data validation experiments. He will be applying for summer student funding through the BCCA Summer Student program.

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