Primary Research Focus
Toxins in our environment cause human disease by causing oxidative stress which may disrupt normal cellular and physiological processes. The mission of the Vitiello laboratory is to determine the molecular influence of environmental toxins, oxidative stress, and antioxidant enzymes on tissue development, homeostasis, and disease pathogenesis.
We are specifically interested in discovering how atmospheric oxygen tension affects perinatal lung growth and lung disease as well as the function of antioxidant enzymes in neurological processes.
By accelerating fundamental research by defining how toxins, oxidative stress and antioxidants influence disease susceptibility and pathogenesis, we hope to improve the human condition by stimulating new diagnostic and therapeutic approaches.
About the Vitiello Lab
Lab Projects and News
Hyperoxic modulation of thioredoxin signaling
Extremely preterm babies with lungs that are not capable of supporting life outside the womb are treated with therapeutic excess oxygen. As a result, these babies may develop a chronic lung disease called bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD). We are investigating how a family of antioxidant enzymes, called thioredoxins, function as molecular sensors of altered atmospheric oxygen tension to promote lung development and deter BPD pathogenesis.
Redox signaling in Friedreich’s Ataxia
Patients with Friedreich’s Ataxia (FRDA) have mitochondrial dysfunction and neuromuscular degeneration due to decreased expression of frataxin. We are investigating how a mitochondrial antioxidant enzyme, peroxiredoxin 3, regulates redox signaling and mitochondrial function during FRDA pathogenesis.
Thioredoxin-dependent redox signaling
As an oxidoreductase capable of reducing protein thiols susceptible to reversible oxidation, thioredoxin 1 (Trx1) plays a critical role in the regulation of redox signaling. Trx1 is ubiquitous, required for life, and is disrupted during pathogenesis of numerous diseases (e.g. neurodegeneration, cardiovascular failure, diabetes, respiratory distress). Therefore, this project investigates physiologically relevant molecular functions of Trx1 during tissue development and homeostasis.
Redox regulation of neuron function
Neurons have a very high metabolic rate to maintain cellular function and are therefore highly susceptible to redox perturbations. We are investigating redox regulation of collapsin response mediator protein 2 (CRMP2) as a conjunction connecting cellular redox state with neuron migration, axon specification and elongation, pain perception, and neuromuscular coordination.
Meet the Vitiello Lab Team
Bethany Mordhorst, PhD
Bethany has a decade of animal science and biomedical research experience. She joined Sanford Research in 2017, where she is investigating redox signaling via thioredoxin 1 in adult and embryonic tissues, mitochondrial redox control of metabolism, and antioxidant therapeutics for treatment of Friedreich’s Ataxia.
As an undergraduate, Bethany developed a strong interest in reproductive biology, working in the laboratory of Dr. Jason Ross. She completed her master’s degree under Dr. Kimberly Vonnahme at NDSU, studying nutrient supplementation and restriction on uterine and mammary blood flow and placental vascularization in gestating beef cattle. Her doctoral research in the laboratory of Dr. Randy Prather at the University of Missouri investigated metabolic programming of donor cells used in somatic cell nuclear transfer of swine. Her future goal is to manage her own laboratory investigating developmental programming and roles of redox stress in pathologies during pregnancy.
She earned a BS in animal science and dairy science at Iowa State University (2012), an MS in animal science specialization in reproductive physiology at North Dakota State University (2014), and a PhD in animal science specialization in molecular reproductive biology at the University of Missouri (2017).
Rachel Laufmann, BS
Rachel has worked with Sanford Research since 2013 as an undergraduate, joining the Vitiello Lab in 2018. She is investigating redox regulation of neuron growth and function with a specific focus on thioredoxin-1 and collapsing response mediator protein 2. She conceives, designs and conducts experiments; analyzes and interprets data; and presents findings and writes scientific papers.
From 2013-2017, she worked with Dr. Jill Weimer at Sanford Research to contribute to a variety of projects, including Batten Disease pathology and gene therapy projects. She also worked on a collaborative project with Dr. Jinoh Kim to investigate COPII vesicle formation and collagen trafficking during development.
She earned a BS in molecular biology in 2016 at the University of South Dakota. She is a PhD candidate in basic biomedical sciences at the University of South Dakota.
Cassie Aegerter, BA
Cassie joined Sanford Research in 2016 and is investigating oxygen-sensitive redox signaling via thioredoxin 1 in lung epithelial cells during perinatal alveolar development and pathogenesis of bronchopulmonary dysplasia. She assists with laboratory management including ordering, compliance and oversight of the animal colony. She designs and conducts experiments and analyzes and interprets data. She previously worked as a patient care technician in the Sanford Health ER.
She graduated from Augustana University in 2016 with a BA in biology.
Anja Cucak, BS
Anja joined Sanford Research in 2018 and is determining how loss of frataxin in Friedreich’s Ataxia influences redox signaling in the mitochondria with a focus on peroxiredoxin 3, a mitochondrial thiol peroxidase. She designs and conducts experiments and analyzes and interprets data.
As an undergraduate, Anja was a member of Dr. Michael Kyba’s lab and studied DUX4 and p53 investigations in fascioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD). She later worked as a research technician in Dr. Linda McLoon’s lab on exploring the impact of glial derived neurotrophic factor on extraocular muscles as it relates to eye alignment disorders.
She graduated from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities in 2016 with a BS in biochemistry.