Lab Members

Deborah Gumucio, PhD 

Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology






Katherine Walton

Post-doctoral Fellow, CDB

I came to the Gumucio Lab in January of 2008 after completing my Ph.D. in Dave McClay’s lab at Duke University. During my thesis work, I developed a love for developmental biology and the complexity of communication between tissue layers during organogenesis. My specific interests are in understanding how the mesenchyme and epithelium communicate to coordinate villus morphogenesis (see below). I chose the Gumucio Lab for my post-doctoral fellowship for several reasons. Here are the main ones: the collaborative atmosphere at UM, the abundance of resources and core facilities, the amazing collection of GI experts we call the “Gut Group”, an active post-doctoral association, the commitment of UM to training post-docs for excellence in teaching, the strength of the Cell and Developmental Biology Department and the Center for Organogenesis, the close connection between basic and clinical researchers allowing opportunities for translational research, and finally, Ann Arbor is a great place to live!

We are investigating how cells of two different tissue layers communicate for coordinated development during villus morphogenesis in the embryonic mouse intestine. Villi increase the surface area of the intestine for maximal absorptive function and diseases that alter villus structure result in malabsorption. Villi must be carefully patterned in order to achieve maximal packing and greatest number of villi per area. In preliminary studies, we have found that Hh and Bmp signaling play roles in patterning the spacing of villi and regulating their emergence. Using a combination of studies in genetic mouse models and an organ culture system we developed, we are carefully dissecting the role of Bmp signaling in villus morphogenesis. Ultimately, an increased understanding of villus morphogenesis may help in developing treatments for short-bowel disease and other diseases that affect villus structure and function.


Michelle Muza-Moons

GI Fellow

I am a gastroenterology fellow who recently joined the laboratory. My previous training includes an internal medicine residency and a PhD in microbiology. During my clinical work I have encountered many patients struggling with inflammatory bowel disease and I am interested in further exploring the etiology of inflammation in the intestine. Dr. Gumucio’s lab has recently uncovered a novel role for Hedgehog signaling in intestinal inflammation. Decreased hedgehog signaling led to increased inflammation and hedgehog ligand alone was sufficient to largely reverse this effect in intestinal mesenchyme. I am working with a bi-transgenic model of chronic Hedgehog inhibition to further explore how Hedgehog modulates inflammatory signals in the rodent adult intestine. In my current position I am working in the laboratory and completing clinical training as a Gastroenterology Fellow.


Ajay Prakash

MD/PhD Student

I am an MD/PhD student currently in the third year of his PhD in Cellular and Molecular Biology. I received my undergraduate degree from Columbia in Biomedical Engineering and began medical school here at Michigan in 2006. I am investigating the development of the pylorus, the junction between the stomach and the small intestine. The pylorus regulates the timing and direction of food movement through the digestive tract and abnormal development of this junction can lead to serious pediatric pathologies, including infantile hypertrophic pyloric stenosis (IHPS). My work extends earlier data within our lab which demonstrated the expression of the transcription factor Gata3 at the pylorus, where it had not previously been described. I am currently characterizing its role in pyloric development and its relation to known pyloric transcription factors and signaling molecules with the goal of eventually understanding the pathogenesis of IHPS.


Ann Staubach Grosse

Graduate Student

Cell polarity, cell shape, and cell division are extremely important events involved in drastically remodeling the epithelium during gut organogenesis to maximize intestinal surface area. Starting at mouse embryonic day (E) 13.5, the epithelium rapidly proliferates, increases cell height, expands the apical surface, and lengthens the anterior-posterior axis of the gut. My project aims to elucidate the cellular and molecular basis of epithelial remodeling during intestinal morphogenesis including the roles of Shroom3, Wnt5a, and Planar Cell Polarity genes in this process.



Katherine Gurdziel

Graduate Student

I am a doctoral student in Bioinformatics and am working on computational prediction of transcription factor binding sites for hedgehog signaling in mammals. I am using chick neural tube electroporation to verify enhancers and study functional evolution.



 Neil Richards

Senior Research Laboratory Specialist

I am the lab's CloneMeister. I do much of the cloning for all the lab projects, from in-situ probes to enhancers for hedgehog-regulated genes and everything in between. Rumor has it that I can clone just about anything other than a winning Michigan football team. I am also an Ohio State alum so I routinely get abused by my Wolverine colleagues.




Tracy Qiao

Research Laboratory Assistant

I am a Research Lab Specialist. Responsible for a Cell Biology Core that is shared with three investigators: Drs. Gumucio, Merchant and Dlugosz. On a daily basis, I handle user training, equipment maintenance, protocol development, and general management of the core.

As a research project, I work on a rare subset of gastric progenitor cells that is marked by expression of a 12.4Kb Villin transgene.  I am investigating V-GPC distribution, behavior, and response to chronic gastric inflammation, metaplasia, dysplasia, and gastric cancer by using in vivo and in vitro mouse models.


Jierong Lang

Research Laboratory Technician

My name is Jierong Lang. I'm in charge of the mouse room. Also, I do most of the mouse genotyping PCR for the lab.





Kara Hamilton

Lab Manager

I’m the lab manager for the Gumucio lab. I have a B.S. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and an M.S. in Genetics. Currently, I take care of ordering supplies and reagents, updating the lab website, and helping schedule and maintain the mouse room. I hope to begin a research project of my own at some point this fall.




Lauren Curley

Undergraduate researcher

I am currently an undergraduate student majoring in Brain, Behavior, and Cognitive Science at the University of Michigan and plan to graduate in the spring of 2011. I started at the lab as a work-study and have progressed to assistant lab manager as well as assisting Ann Grosse (graduate student) with research. After I graduate, I plan to spend a year doing research in the lab before pursuing my Doctorate in Kinesiology/Biology. My ultimate goal is to work in a hospital setting helping patients recover from surgeries and debilitating diseases.



Shawn Lopez

Undergraduate researcher

 A fourth year undergraduate student helping with Tracy's stomach stem cell project. We are currently investigating gastric stem cells that respond to TH1 cytokines such has interferon gamma and MNU (methyl-nitruoso-urea) carcinogens. Some other responsibilities involve solution making, cell culturing, tissue dissection, tissue preparation for histology, genotyping and H&E staining.




Angela Chen

Undergraduate researcher

Senior majoring in Neuroscience and Linguistic Anthropology. Planning to either go into animal or human medicine. Hobbies include rock climbing and reading. Working with Tracy on the stem cell study of gastrin and stomach stem cells. A typical day includes cryostat sectioning, antibody staining, microscope and photo analysis, and of course, PCRs and general genotyping.



Brianna Sabol

Undergraduate researcher

I am a junior undergrad studying at the University of Michigan. I plan on majoring in Biochemistry and Women's Studies. In the lab I take care of the mouse room, general lab maintenance, and perform basic scientific tasks. In the next few months I will start working with a specific lab member and transition into a project. I plan to attend medical school after graduation.




Sherrita McClain

Undergraduate researcher






Mikey Thomas

Undergraduate researcher






Juhi Kushwaha

Undergraduate researcher

Hi! My name is Juhi Kushwaha. I am an undergrad at UM, majoring in biochemistry. My future plans include going to medical school. I am currently working on a project with Kate involving looking at villi development in CAAlk3; P0Cre mice.