Primary Research Focus
The Tao Lab focuses on understanding the basic mechanisms underlying pathophysiological osteoblast function to effectively treat skeletal diseases like inborn osteosclerosis and osteosarcoma as well as to guide therapies like bone regeneration.
Skeletal NOTCH proteins regulate embryogenesis and play a critical role in osteoblast function and in skeletal development and homeostasis. Pathological notch signaling has emerged as a critical disease-mechanism for skeletal diseases.
The lab’s main goal is to dissect molecular mechanisms underlying NOTCH-related skeletal diseases, particularly within the setting of pathological osteoblast functions.
Dr. Tao’s research may provide novel mechanistic insights into the pathogenesis of skeletal diseases, explore regulatory and biochemical mechanisms in molecular detail in vivo, and open new opportunities for effective treatments of the diseases.
About the Tao Lab
Lab Projects and News
National Institute of Health Grant
Project Title: Dissecting of developmental signaling pathways in bone development and osteosarcoma
Role: Project Principal Investigator
This is an investigation of the role of driver-regulated developmental signaling pathways in the formation and maintenance of bone cancer stem cells and metastasis.
National Science Foundation Grant
Project Title: MRI: Acquisition of a Micro-CT system for 3D tissue and materials structure analysis
Role: Project Co-Principal Investigator
The objective of this project is to maintain a high-resolution, non-destructive 3-dimensional specimen micro-computed tomography (micro-CT) imaging instrument to study the structure of 3-dimensional biomaterials as well as animal and plant tissues for science research and education in South Dakota.
Meet the Tao Team
Haydee Torres, PhD
Dr. Haydee M. Torres investigates novel Notch interacting partners that are critical for the formation of Notch nuclear complexes, and to examine the roles of these effectors in osteosarcoma initiation, progression, and metastasis in mouse models of human skeletal disease.
Dr. Torres earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology from the Villanova University, a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from the St. Thomas University and a Ph.D. degree in biochemistry at the South Dakota State University in 2021.
Leetoria Hinojosa, MS
Leetoria Hinojosa joined the Tao lab in 2020 to assist the team in its research on human bone cancer cells and congenital skeletal disease. She studies how tumor suppressor gene TP53 and NOTCH/WNT signaling pathway interactions may contribute to tumor initiation and cancer metastasis.
Leetoria holds both of her degrees in biology at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, earning a bachelor’s degree in 2018 and a Master’s degree in 2020. Her thesis was focused on investigating the localization of FOXO transcription factors in Glioblastoma cancer cells.
Tao Lab Alumni
- Dakota Callahan - 2021 SPUR Scholar summer student from the University of Sioux Falls
- Danica Kocer - 2021 BRIN Scholar summer student from the Black Hills State University
- Yuxia Cao- Senior Research Specialist in Tao lab from 2020-2021.
- Ashley VanCleave - Research Specialist in Tao lab from 2017-2020. Current: PhD Graduate student at Pennsylvania State University
- Tania Rodezno - Research Associate Specialist in Tao lab from 2019-2020. Current: PhD Graduate student at University of Alberta
- Fang Fang, PhD – Postdoctoral Fellow in Tao Lab from 2015-2019. Current: Human Genome Scientist at Fulgent Genetics LLC
- Dakota Callahan – 2019 BRIN Scholar summer student from the University of Sioux Falls
- Josephine Conn – 2019 SPUR Scholar summer student from the Carleton College
- Mykayla Palmer – 2019 Medical Student Research Program (MSRP) Scholar summer student from the medical school of the University of South Dakota
- Anthony Restaino – 2019 Child Health Innovative Research program (CHIRP) Scholar summer student from the medical school of the University of South Dakota
- Austyn Smithback – 2019 Sanford PROMISE Scholar summer student from the Harrisburg High School
- Mykayla Palmer – 2018 SPUR Scholar summer student from the University of South Dakota
- Collin Sorensen – 2018 BRIN Scholar summer student from the Mount Marty College
- Eric Fogarty – 2017 PhD Rotation Graduate Student from basic biological sciences program at University of South Dakota
- Ralph Helmuth – 2017 BRIN Scholar summer student from the Dakota Wesleyan University, and 2017-2018 SPUR Scholar student part-time intern
- Kirby Rickel – Research Associate in Tao lab from 2015-2017. Current: Ph.D. Graduate student at University of South Dakota
- Baylee Slevira – 2017 SPUR Scholar summer student from the Beloit College.
- Paige Bosshardt – 2016 Sanford Program for Undergraduate Research (SPUR) Scholar summer student from the University of Northwestern St. Paul
- Kaitlyn Dorn – 2016 BRIN Scholar summer student from the Augustana University
- Eric Fogarty – 2016 PhD Rotation Graduate Student from basic biological sciences program at University of South Dakota
- Shimara Gunawardana – 2016 PhD rotation student from biochemistry program at the South Dakota State University.