Cecilia Lo Appointed Chair of New Developmental Biology Department in Pitt Medical School

Issue Date: 
April 26, 2009
Cecilia LoCecilia Lo

The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine has established a new Department of Developmental Biology and appointed as its founding chair Cecilia Lo, whose own research focuses on understanding the causes of congenital heart disease.

A developmental biology department is still uncommon, but very timely and appropriate, noted Arthur S. Levine, dean of the School of Medicine and senior vice chancellor for the health sciences at the University of Pittsburgh. Such a research concentration will take advantage of powerful new technologies for manipulating the genes of sperm, egg, and their union to examine the impact on development.

“Dr. Lo is ideally suited to lead this promising new department,” Levine said. “Her work is taking significant steps toward discovering the genetic basis for congenital heart disease, and her approach and technologies easily lend themselves to similar analyses for birth defects in other organs.”

Using a variety of genetically modified mouse models, Lo is able to identify novel mutations that cause congenital heart defects such as atrial and ventricular septal defects, transposition of the great arteries, and pulmonary stenosis.

“I am delighted to continue my work at the University of Pittsburgh and look forward to taking on exciting research challenges with my new colleagues in Pittsburgh’s health sciences community,” Lo said.

She will join the faculty in the summer, leaving positions as director of the Genetics and Developmental Biology Center, since 2004, and chief of the Laboratory of Developmental Biology, since 2001, at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda. At the same time, Lo’s husband, tissue-engineering expert Rocky Tuan, will join the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery to direct its new Center for Cellular and Molecular Engineering [see accompanying article on Tuan].

Lo received her doctorate in 1979 from Rockefeller University and her Bachelor of Science degree in 1974 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where her advisor was Nobel Laureate David Baltimore. Prior to working at NHLBI, she was a professor of biology in the School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania.

Both Lo and Tuan have served on many professional committees and boards, published significant research papers in top-tier scientific journals, and delivered invited talks at highly regarded academic centers.

They will begin their positions this summer. They have been married for 33 years and have one child.