The Evans laboratory studies the molecular regulation of organogenesis, with projects focused on stem cell biology, lineage commitment, differentiation, growth, and morphogenesis. We currently use two primary model systems. We use zebrafish as an animal model because of its great advantages for imaging organ formation, our ability to manipulate the genome, and for chemical and genetic screens. We also use mouse and human pluripotent stem cells for in vitro studies, since these models allow us to generate virtually any cells and tissues for disease modeling, often using organoids. Our focus has been on discovering key regulatory genes that specify cell fate, direct cell differentiation, and drive morphogenesis for several organ systems, including the hematopoietic system, the cardiovascular system, and the gastrointestinal system. We probe genetic and epigenomic regulatory networks that are implicated in normal development to understand how these, when deregulated, can cause human congenital and acquired disease including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer. Regarding hematopoiesis and vascular development, we have studied the BMP, WNT, FGF, and S1P signaling pathways for regulating stem and progenitor cell biology. With respect to the cardiovascular system, we discovered functions for three related transcriptional regulatory genes (GATA4, GATA5, and GATA6) during embryogenesis and in maintaining homeostasis of the adult cardiovascular and gut-derived systems. A third major area of research is the epigenomic control of developmental programs by DNA methylation (by AID, TET, and QSER1 proteins). Students and fellows in the laboratory always have independent projects for which they are the driving force for discovery, yet we are a very collaborative and cross-disciplinary group, for which mentoring, helpful critiques, and supportive encouragement is highly stressed and valued.
- Function of GATA4, GATA5, and GATA6 in cardiogenesis.
- Regulation of DNA methylation by TET enzymes during organogenesis.
- QSER1 and PRR12 function during zebrafish embryogenesis.
- Discovery of genetic modifiers causing DiGeorge Syndrome.
- Molecular basis of chemotherapy-induced cardiotoxicity.
- Cellular and molecular control of cardiac pacemaker development.
- Discovery of novel drugs targeting specific KRAS mutations.
Dr. Evans earned his BA at Northwestern University and his PhD at Columbia University. As a postdoctoral fellow at the NIH he discovered a critical gene (Gata1) that controls red blood cell development. He was appointed in 1990 as an Assistant Professor at the University of Pittsburgh, followed by a move to the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in 1995, where he became a tenured Professor and served as the Dean of the Graduate Program. Dr. Evans was recruited to WCM in 2009 to establish a new Research Division and the Program in Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine in Surgery.
- Outstanding Investigator Award, NHLBI
- Pressman Professorship (endowed chair)
- NIH MERIT Award
- Samuel M. Rosen Outstanding Teaching Award
- Irma T. Hirschl, Career Scientist Award
- Established Investigator Award, American Heart Association
- Searle Scholar Award, Chicago Community Trust
- Basil O'Connor Scholar Award, March of Dimes Foundation