Apr 7, 2022: Toxicant-disrupted transcriptional regulation skews osteoblastogenesis

Seminar speaker, Nicole Sparks, PhD, standing in front of a stairway, while wearing a striped shirt

Nichole R. Sparks, PhD

NIH MOSAIC K99 Postdoctoral Fellow

Department of Molecular, Cell, & Systems Biology

University of California, Riverside

She / Her / Hers


Birth defects that affect skeletal tissues are frequent and impose life-long health concerns. Genetic factors can be an underlying cause for some birth defects, but a majority stem from the involuntary exposure to environmental chemicals while the fetus is developing in utero. However, the link between environmental exposure and embryonic molecular alterations that lead to maldevelopment is largely understudied. This seminar shows the use of embryonic stem cells for an osteoblast developmental toxicity model, where Dr. Sparks demonstrates the adverse effects of environmental toxicants on the developing skeleton. This talk highlights transcriptions factors that were negatively impacted by tobacco exposure, suggesting an underlying mechanism between maternal smoking and birth defects. In addition, Dr. Sparks highlights toxicant-responsive miRNAs that skew osteoblastogenesis and may be suitable as a biomarker.

About the Speaker: Dr. Nicole Sparks is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, Riverside under the guidance of Dr. Nicole zur Nieden. Dr. Sparks did her bachelor’s degree at La Sierra University. Then went on for her master’s degree at CSU San Bernardino, followed by her PhD in Environmental Toxicology at UC Riverside. Dr. Sparks is a Postdoctoral Researcher in the Cell, Molecular and Systems Biology Department at the UC Riverside, and a recipient of the inaugural NIH K99/R00 mosaic award through NIEHS and a previous UC Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow. Her research interests focus on stem cell fate changes due to toxicant exposure that associates with skeletal birth defects. Specifically, she is focused on how transcriptional regulators, necessary for proper bone differentiation, are negatively impacted by toxicant exposure, leading to unwanted differentiation defects.

Thursday, April 7, 12:00-1:15 pm Eastern

Field Auditorium Room 1112, Grainger Hall (9 Circuit Dr, Durham, NC)

NEW LOCATION: Physics Building (120 Science Dr, Durham, NC), room 128

All in-person attendees are expected to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Masks are REQUIRED to be worn in Field Auditorium, regardless of vaccination status. Masks with valves, gaiter-style masks, and bandanna-style masks are not acceptable.

If you should develop possible symptoms of COVID-19 or are diagnosed with COVID-19, you should stay home and attend the seminar via Zoom (see registration details below).

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