Cassandra Bilogan is First Brown-MBL PhD Awardee in the MBL’s Bell Center for Regenerative Biology and Tissue Engineering

Brown-MBL student Cassandra Bilogan successfully defended her PhD dissertation last August at Brown University. She conducted her doctoral research in the lab of MBL Associate Scientist Marko Horb, making her the first Brown-MBL student to complete her degree in the Eugene Bell Center for Regenerative Biology and Tissue Engineering. Bilogan was enrolled in the Department of Molecular Biology, Cell Biology and Biochemistry at Brown.

The African clawed frog, Xenopus laevis. Photo courtesy of Encyclopedia of Life (

The African clawed frog, Xenopus laevis, a relatively new model organism for the study of pancreas development that has already made contributions to the field (see review by Pearl et al, listed below). Photo courtesy of Encyclopedia of Life (

Bilogan’s research focused on embryonic development in the frog Xenopus laevis, in particular the patterning of the endoderm (the inner germ layer of the early embryo) and the development of the pancreas. Understanding how the pancreas develops is vital to finding treatments for a range of pancreatic diseases, including diabetes and pancreatic cancer.

Bilogan identified a novel role during endoderm development for an RNA-binding protein that is present in most animal species. Her research provided new insights into a previously unappreciated role of the spatial-temporal regulation of germ-layer patterning during gastrulation, when the basic body plan of the animal is being established.

During her graduate studies, Bilogan was the lead author on two journal papers and a second author on a review paper (see below). Her research was supported by a Canadian Institute of Health Research fellowship and by grants to Horb from the National Institutes of Health.

In October, Bilogan will start a postdoctoral fellowship in the lab of Takuya Sakaguchi at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio.


·  Bilogan, C.K. and Horb, M.E. (2012) Microarray analysis of Xenopus endoderm expressing Ptf1a. Genesis 50, 853-870 (PMC3498591)

·  Bilogan, C.K. and Horb, M.E. (2012) Xenopus Staufen 2 is required for anterior endodermal organ formation. Genesis 50, 251-259 (PMC3294188)

·  Pearl, E.J., Bilogan, C.K., Mukhi, S., Brown, D.D. and Horb, M.E. (2009) Xenopus pancreas development. Developmental Dynamics 238, 1271-1286 (PMC2921176)