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Ashley W. Seifert

Research Interests:
Animal regeneration
developmental biology and regenerative medicine

Postdoctoral Fellow (Regeneration Biology )-- University of Florida, Department of Biology 2009-2013
Ph.D. (Developmental Biology) -- University of Florida, Department of Zoology, 2004-2009
M.Sc. (Physiological Ecology) -- University of Florida, Department of Zoology, 2001-2004
A.B. (Biology) -- Bowdoin College, 1994-1998


Research projects in my laboratory are united in trying to understand the developmental mechanisms regulating organogenesis and regeneration. Patterning, growth, and cellular differentiation are integrated in both processes, but it remains largely unknown if regeneration recapitulates development or comprises its own unique program in response to injury. Research in the lab utilizes multiple animal models to understand how injury stimulates a regenerartive response in some contexts while in others the result is fibrosis (scarring) and failure to regenerate. The ultimate goal is to understand how tissue regeneration occurs in a natural biological context and use this understanding to inform the development of regenerative therapies for use in human medicine.

Research projects in the lab are presently focused in three tissue systems (skin, ear and limb)

Tissue Regeneration in African spiny mice: Examples of tissue regeneration in adult mammals are the exception and include the regeneration of deer antlers, and rabbit ear tissue. In addition to comparing scar-free healing in salamanders to wound repair in mammalian models (e.g., pigs and rodents), we are pursuing examples of bonafide tissue regeneration in mammals. Our recent discovery that African spiny mice (Acomys) can regenerate hair follicles, cartilage, and skin in ear punches provides a new opportunity to uncover molecular changes that permit regeneration in an adult mammal. Using their ears as a regenerative system, we are investigating how these animals generate and maintain a regeneration blastema. In addition, a longstanding question in regeneration biology has centered on whether the mammalian immune system contributes to constrain regenerative capacity. We are currently developing a project to examine the local response to injury and test the hypothesis that trade-offs in immunity along (1) innate vs. adaptive and (2) pro vs. anti-inflammatory axes underlie variation in the ability and rate of regeneration.

Scar Free Healing in Salamanders: A major focus of the lab is trying to understand the mechanisms that regulate skin regeneration in some vertebrates (e.g., salamanders), in contrast to fibrotic scarring observed in frogs and mammals. Our discovery of scar-free skin regeneration in adult axolotls (Ambystoma mexicanum) has provided a platform to compare these divergent responses to injury. Combining molecular genetic tools available in axolotls with pharmacodynamics we are pursuing the following questions; (1) what biological components of the extracellular matrix constitute a regenerative environment, (2) how does the extracellular environment regulate fibrosis following injury and (3) what are the key molecular signals that control fibrosis during regeneration and scarring.

Limb and Skin Development in Salamanders: This line of research is focused on understanding how the skin and limb develop in salamanders. Although the development of these systems are well understood in amniotes, development of these organs is poorly understood in salamanders. Because salamanders are capable of regenerating their skin and limbs as adults, we have been investigating how these organs undergo normal development. This line of research allows us to better understand the degree to which organ development and regeneration share generalized programs.

For more information about the laboratory, people and projects visit the Seifert Lab Website.