Elizabeth and Michael Gallagher Family Associate Professor of Adult Stem Cell Research
Kidney diseases affect millions of people across the globe, and are caused by birth defects and the failure to heal after acute or chronic organ injury. Understanding how the kidney is formed by stem cells during development, and how kidney cells can be regenerated in the adult, are crucial tasks in finding more effective ways to treat patients suffering from kidney afflictions.
Dr. Rebecca Ann Wingert is working with her lab to answer these questions through novel stem cell research with zebrafish—a small, freshwater fish whose kidney is fundamentally similar to humans. Unlike people, however, zebrafish have amazing abilities for regenerating their embryonic and adult kidney structures. Determining how zebrafish accomplish these feats can provide transformative medical insights for how to heal and prevent renal disease.
Dr. Wingert is a native of Bethlehem, PA. She received dual undergraduate degrees in Biology and English from Muhlenberg College, Allentown, PA in 1999, and subsequently earned her Ph.D. in Cellular and Developmental Biology from Harvard University in 2005. She then worked as a Postdoctoral Fellow and Instructor at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School until 2010, where she accrued advanced training in Genetics and Stem Cell Biology.
Dr. Wingert came to Notre Dame in the Fall of 2010 to start her independent research laboratory in the Department of Biological Sciences, where she teaches undergraduate and graduate course electives in Stem Cell Biology, Development and Regeneration. She received a Basil O’Connor Starter Scholar Award from the March of Dimes in 2011, which recognizes promising young investigators pursuing research that aims to understand and treat developmental defects in children. Dr. Wingert’s research is also supported by several multi-year grants from the National Institutes of Health, including the prestigious Director’s New Innovator Award (2011-2016) to study the mechanisms of kidney regeneration, and a Research Project (R01) Award (2013-2018) to identify genetic models of kidney birth defects using zebrafish.
This is one of three professorships in adult stem cell research, established by Mike (’91 ND) and Liz (’92 SMC) Gallagher. These new faculty lines will have a positive impact on the treatment and possible cure of spinal cord injuries and degenerative illnesses including Type 1 diabetes, Parkinson’s, macular degeneration, and cardiovascular disease.