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
Fang Fang, PhD
Fang Fang joined the Tao Lab in 2015 to investigate genetic pathways that affect skeletal health and diseases including osteosarcoma, osteoporosis, and osteosclerosis.
Fang Fang holds a Ph.D. in biochemistry and molecular biology from Guangzhou Institutes of Biomedicine and Health and completed her postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor in 2014, where she studied molecular mechanisms of cell signaling in the areas of physiological and pathological bone metabolism as well as molecular basis that links metabolism to the body clock and metabolic diseases.
Haydee Torres, PhD Candidate
Haydee Torres joined the Tao Lab in 2018 to investigate novel Notch interacting partners that are critical for the formation of Notch nuclear complexes and examine the roles of these effectors in osteosarcoma initiation, progression and metastasis in mouse models of human skeletal disease.
Torres is currently a Ph.D. candidate in biochemistry at South Dakota State University. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology from Villanova University as well as a Bachelor of Science degree in biology from St. Thomas University.
Ashley VanCleave, BS
Ashley VanCleave joined the Tao Lab in 2017 to assist the team in the characterization of mouse models of human skeletal diseases including osteosarcoma and human osteosarcoma cells.
VanCleave holds a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from Briar Cliff University.
Mykayla Palmer, BS
Sanford SPUR Scholar Intern
Mykayla Palmer joined the Tao Lab in 2018 to the properties of human and mouse Osteosarcoma Cancer Stem Cells and the effects of therapeutic drugs (e.g. mTORC1 inhibition by Rapamycin).
Palmer holds a bachelor’s degree in medical biology from the University of South Dakota.
Tao Lab Alumni
- 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.