Welcome to Developmental and Reproductive Biology (DRB)
Graduate Program Website!!!

        The Department of Anatomy, Biochemistry and Physiology at the University of Hawaii School of Medicine offers a graduate program leading to MS and PhD degrees in Developmental and Reproductive Biology. In our program, students are enganged in laboratory research and classes that integrate diverse disciplines, such as the study of:

  • Embryo development
  • Stem cells
  • Organogenesis
  • Assisted reproductive technologies (ART)
  • Gene therapy
  • Devo-Evo
  • Anatomical imaging
        Whether your goal is pure basic science or translational research, we offer opportunities that will enable you to impact biomedical science and our understanding of life!


Montana INBRE/RAIN Technology Access Grant for Hayden Holmlund

         Hayden Holmlund, a PhD student in the Developmental and Reproductive Biology (DRB) graduate program, has just been awarded a Montana INBRE/RAIN Technology Access Grant ($4,600) for his proposal entitled: "Identifying Potential Co-regulators of ZFY1 and ZFY2 in the Male Germline." Hayden pursues his PhD research in the laboratory of Monika Ward. He will use the newly acquired funds to cover the cost of performing mass spectrometry analyses of male germline samples from transgenic mice he developed in Hawaii.

         This is not Hayden's first success with attracting grant funding. He has previously applied and been awarded the prestigious Cheteaubriand Fellowship, which sponsored his 6-months training in the laboratory of Dr. Ward's collaborator in Paris, France in Spring this year. He has also recently been awarded the NIH F31 grant to study the function of ZFY proteins.


NIH F32 Grant for Hayden Holmlund

        Fourth year DRB PhD student Hayden Holmlund received a fundable score 21 (13th percentile) for the competitive NIH F31 grant. He submitted the F31 grant to support his dissertation research aiming to identify the molecular function of the mouse Y chromosome zinc finger proteins ZFY1 and ZFY2 that he carries out in the Monika Ward Laboratory. This is the second successful grant submission of Hayden. In 2022 he applied for, and was awarded, a prestigious Chateaubriand Fellowship to spend 6 months in the laboratory of Dr. Ward's long-term collaborator from the Cochin Institute in Paris. He is there now, performing some of his dissertation experiments and enjoying fresh croissants. Bravo Hayden!


Lance Nenes receives Kai Bowden ARCS Award in Medicine

        DRB Program PhD student Lance Nunes receives Kai Bowden ARCS Award in Medicine.


MS Defense by Kristal Xie

        DRB Program MS student Kristal Xie successfully defended her thesis on December 13, 2022. Her defense took place in the Manoa IBR Conference Room (Biomed Building E125). Kristal is mentored by Dr. Jesse Owens. See more details in here.


Nicholas Kawasaki won ARCS Scholar of the Year

        DRB Program PhD student Nicholas Kawasaki was named ARCS Foundation Honolulu Chapter's 2022 Scholar of the Year. Nicholas received the Sherry Lundeen ARCS Scholar of the Year Award for best presentation in the biological sciences. . Nicholas is mentored by Dr. Takashi Matsui, and his story is featured in UH News. Read more.


MS Defense by Jackson Bakse
(July 21, 2022, Thursday, Manoa IBR/Biomed plus via Zoom)

        Master thesis defense of Mr. Jackson Bakse is scheduled for July 21, 2022 (Thursday) at 10:30am in the Manoa IBR Biomed Building Room E125, and is also broadcasted through Zoom. See more details in here.


MS Defense by Marissa Miyagi
(May 5, 2022, Thursday, Kakaako MEB plus via Zoom)

        Master thesis defense of Ms. Marissa Miyagi is scheduled for May 5, 2022 (Thursday) at 1:00pm in the Kakaako Medical Education Building (MEB) Room 304, and is also broadcasted through Zoom. See more details in here.


PhD Defense by Trevor Torigoe
(April 13, 2022, Wednesday, Kakaako MEB plus via Zoom)

        Doctoral dissertation defense of Mr. Trevor Torigoe is scheduled for April 13, 2022 (Wednesday) at 9:00am in the Kakaako Medical Education Building (MEB) Room 202, and is also broadcasted through Zoom. See more details in here.


DRB Graduate Program Promotion Video (03/16/2022)

         Clink here to view the video on YouTube. Two DRB students, Marissa Miyagi and Winnie Wu, who worked tirelessly with the assistance of the JABSOM Media Team, to prepare this promotion video. Big Mahalo!


Marissa Miyagi is featured in UH Med Now

        Marissa Miyagi is awarded the best Poster Presentations at the JABSOM 2021 Biomedical Sciences Symposium, which was held on April 15, 2021. The title of her presentation is "Three-dimensional (3-D) ovarian tissue culture supported by dextran hydrogel with polyethylene glycol (PEG) crosslinker". Marissa is mentored by Dr. Yukiko Yamazaki, and her story is featured in UH Med Now. Read more.


Lance Nunes and Lauren Kirkwood at the JABSOM Commencement Ceremony (May 15, Saturday)

        Lance Nunes and Lauren Kirkwood graduated with Master's degree. The commencement ceremony was held on May 15, 2021 at the JABSOM Kakaako. Lance defended his thesis on April 23 (see more details here) and Lauren defended her thesis on April 28 (see more details here).


MS Defense by Dominique Elento
(December 16, 2020, Wednesday, via Zoom)

        Master's degree thesis defense of Dominique Elento is scheduled for December 16, 2020 (Wednesday) at 2:00pm via Zoom. See more details in here.


Trevor Torigoe is featured in the UH Med Now

         Trevor Torigoe, a PhD candidate (Mentor: Dr. Richard Allsopp), is also one of the first year medical students at JABSOM, and he is expected to graduate with his MD and PhD in 2024. His story is featured in the UH Med Now. Read more.


2019 DRB Program Retreat
(November 6, 2019, Wednesday, IBR Seminar Room)

        The JABSOM Developmental and Reproductive Biology (DRB) Graduate Program Students 2019 Retreat took place on November 6 at the UH Manoa Institute of Biogenesis Research (IBR). Thirteen students (7 PhD and 6 MS) presented their work. The topics covered various aspects of reproductive and developmental biology, such as stem cells in reproduction, oogenesis, fertilization, assisted reproduction technologies, embryonic and fetal development, placentation and other aspects of pregnancy, transgenesis, behavior, etc. Faculty from the IBR, Anatomy, Biochemistry & Physiology (ABH) and Cell and Molecular Biology departments were in attendance. The meeting was highly successful, with collegial atmosphere and vivid discussions. The students' presentations were top-notch, both in respect to power point presentation quality and its oral delivery. See more about the Retreat, including photos of all students, in here.


Chantell Balaan is featured in the Garden Island (TGI)

        Chantell Balaan, a PhD candidate (Mentor: Dr. Masato Yoshizawa), is on a mission to understand how the gut microbiome affects brain function and human behavior, particularly in people with autism spectrum disorder. Her story is featured in the Garden Island, Kauai's newspaper. Read more.


Brent Fujimoto presents at American Association of Diabetes Meeting

        Brent Fujimoto, Ph.D. candidate in Developmental and Reproductive Biology, presented at the American Diabetes Association Meeting in San Francisco, CA. Mr. Fujimoto mentors are Drs. Noemi Polgar and Ben Fogelgren. The research focuses on how glucose is transported into muscle which is important for understanding diabetes.


Chantell Balaan receives the ARCS 2019 Award in Medicine

        Chantell Balaan, a PhD candidate (Mentor: Dr. Masato Yoshizawa), receives the ARCS Award in Medicine. The ARCS foundation (Achievement Rewards for College Scientists) is a non-profit organization administered by a group of women, who provide scholarships and awards to support graduate and undergraduate students in science. Chantell will present her research on April 13 at UH Manoa to the ARCS members, and receives the award at the ceremony on May 6.

See also: The Garden Island, UH Med News


Students Showcase the DRB Program at the Annual Graduate & Law Schools Fair

        On Tuesday, November 27, 2018, two DRB students, Lance Nunes (left) and Nicholas Kawasaki (right), represented the program at the Annual Graduate & Law Schools Fair.


Recent Publications (2018-2023) by DRB Graduate Students

         Names of the DRB students are underlined.


  • Nunes LGA, Ma C, Hoffmann FW, Shay AE, Pitts MW, Hoffmann PR. Selenoprotein I is indispensable for ether lipid homeostasis and proper myelination. J Biol Chem. 2024 Apr 4:107259. doi: 10.1016/j.jbc.2024.107259. PMID: 38582453.
  • Torigoe TH, Willcox DC, Shimabukuro M, Higa M, Gerschenson M, Andrukhiv A, Suzuki M, Morris BJ, Chen R, Gojanovich GS, Allsopp RC, Willcox BJ. Novel protective effect of the FOXO3 longevity genotype on mechanisms of cellular aging in Okinawans. NPJ Aging. 2024 Mar 8;10(1):18. doi: 10.1038/s41514-024-00142-8. PMID: 38459055.
  • Huntsman MC, Kurashima CK, Marikawa Y. Validation of a mouse 3D gastruloid-based embryotoxicity assay in reference to the ICH S5(R3) guideline chemical exposure list. Reprod Toxicol. 2024 Feb 15;125:108558. doi: 10.1016/j.reprotox.2024.108558. PMID: 38367697.
  • Nunes LGA, Cain A, Comyns C, Hoffmann PR, Krahn N. Deciphering the Role of Selenoprotein M. Antioxidants (Basel). 2023 Oct 25;12(11):1906. doi: 10.3390/antiox12111906. PMID: 38001759.
  • Kawasaki NK, Suhara T, Komai K, Shimada BK, Yorichika N, Kobayashi M, Baba Y, Higa JK, Matsui T. The role of ferroptosis in cell-to-cell propagation of cell death initiated from focal injury in cardiomyocytes. Life Sci. 2023 Nov 1;332:122113. doi: 10.1016/j.lfs.2023.122113. PMID: 37739163.
  • Holmlund H, Yamauchi Y, Ruthig VA, Cocquet J, Ward MA. Return of the forgotten hero: the role of Y chromosome-encoded Zfy in male reproduction. Mol Hum Reprod. 2023 Jul 31;29(8):gaad025. doi: 10.1093/molehr/gaad025. PMID: 37354519.
  • Nguyen H, Ribas-Maynou J, Wu H, Quon B, Inouye T, Walker B, Langaman C, Huang TTF, Ward WS. Low levels of mouse sperm chromatin fragmentation delay embryo development. Biol Reprod. 2023 Sep 2:ioad106. doi: 10.1093/biolre/ioad106. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 37658763.
  • Ribas-Maynou J, Nguyen H, Wu H, Ward WS. Functional Aspects of Sperm Chromatin Organization. Results Probl Cell Differ. 2022;70:295-311. doi: 10.1007/978-3-031-06573-6_10. PMID: 36348112; PMCID: PMC9671218.
  • Padron JG, Norman Ing ND, Ng PK, Kendal-Wright CE. Stretch Causes Cell Stress and the Downregulation of Nrf2 in Primary Amnion Cells. Biomolecules. 2022 May 31;12(6):766. doi: 10.3390/biom12060766. PMID: 35740891; PMCID: PMC9220942.
  • Saito Reis CA, Ng PK, Kurashima CK, Padron J, Kendal-Wright CE. Fetal DNA Causes Sex-Specific Inflammation From Human Fetal Membranes. Front Physiol. 2022 Jun 22;13:901726. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2022.901726. PMID: 35812324; PMCID: PMC9257279.
  • Kurashima CK, Ng PK, Kendal-Wright CE. RAGE against the Machine: Can Increasing Our Understanding of RAGE Help Us to Battle SARS-CoV-2 Infection in Pregnancy? Int J Mol Sci. 2022 Jun 7;23(12):6359. doi: 10.3390/ijms23126359. PMID: 35742804; PMCID: PMC9224312.
  • Nguyen TB, Lac Q, Abdi L, Banerjee D, Deng Y, Zhang Y. Harshening stem cell research and precision medicine: The states of human pluripotent cells stem cell repository diversity, and racial and sex differences in transcriptomes. Front Cell Dev Biol. 2023 Jan 4;10:1071243. doi: 10.3389/fcell.2022.1071243. PMID: 36684445; PMCID: PMC9848738.
  • Giannakopoulos S, Strange DP, Jiyarom B, Abdelaal O, Bradshaw AW, Nerurkar VR, Ward MA, Bakse J, Yap J, Vanapruks S, Boisvert WA, Tallquist MD, Shikuma C, Sadri-Ardekani H, Clapp P, Murphy SV, Verma S. In vitro evidence against productive SARS-CoV-2 infection of human testicular cells: Bystander effects of infection mediate testicular injury. PLoS Pathog. 2023 May 18;19(5):e1011409. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1011409. PMID: 37200377; PMCID: PMC10231791.
  • Ribas-Maynou J, Nguyen H, Valle R, Wu H, Yeste M, Ward WS. Sperm degradation after vasectomy follows a sperm chromatin fragmentation-dependent mechanism causing DNA breaks in the toroid linker regions. Mol Hum Reprod. 2022 Aug 29;29(9):gaac029. doi: 10.1093/molehr/gaac029. PMID: 35929777; PMCID: PMC9422300.
  • Morosky P, Comyns C, Nunes LGA, Chung CZ, Hoffmann PR, Soll D, Vargas-Rodriguez O and Krahn N (2023) Dual incorporation of non-canonical amino acids enables production of post-translationally modified selenoproteins. Frontiers in Molecular Biosciences 10:1096261. doi: 10.3389/fmolb.2023.1096261.
  • Kirkwood-Johnson L, Marikawa Y. (2023) Developmental toxicity of remdesivir, an anti-COVID-19 drug, is implicated by in vitro assays using morphogenetic embryoid bodies of mouse and human pluripotent stem cells. Birth Defects Research 115(2):224-239. doi: 10.1002/bdr2.2111. PMCID: PMC9877128.
  • Fernandes VFL, Glaser Y, Iwashita M, Yoshizawa M. (2022) Evolution of left-right asymmetry in the sensory system and foraging behavior during adaptation to food-sparse cave environments. BMC Biology 20(1):295. doi: 10.1186/s12915-022-01501-1. PMID: 36575431; PMCID: PMC9795734.
  • Yang X*, Kawasaki NK*, Min J, Matsui T, Wang F. (2022) Ferroptosis in heart failure. J Mol Cell Cardiol. Oct 20;173:141-153. doi: 10.1016/j.yjmcc.2022.10.004. PMID: 36273661. (*co-first authors)
  • Komai K, Kawasaki NK, Higa JK, Matsui T. The Role of Ferroptosis in Adverse Left Ventricular Remodeling Following Acute Myocardial Infarction. Cells. 2022 Apr 20;11(9):1399. doi: 10.3390/cells11091399. PMID: 35563704; PMCID: PMC9102292.
  • Holmlund H, Yamauchi Y, Durango G, Fujii W, Ward MA. (2022): Two recently acquired mouse Y chromosome-linked genes, Prssly and Teyorf1, are dispensable for male fertility. Biology of Reproduction. 2022 Apr 29:ioac084. doi: 1093/biolre/ioac084.
  • Matsushige C, Xu X, Miyagi M, Zuo YY, Yamazaki Y. (2022) RGD-modified dextran hydrogel promotes follicle growth in three-dimensional ovarian tissue culture in mice. Theriogenology. Apr 15;183:120-131.
  • Urena F, Ma C, Hoffmann FW, Nunes LGA, Urschitz J, Moisyadi S, Khadka VS, Deng Y, Hoffmann PR. (2022) T-cell activation decreases miRNA-15a/16 levels to promote MEK1-ERK1/2-Elk1 signaling and proliferative capacity. J Biol Chem. Jan 25;298(3):101634.
  • Yamauchi Y, Matsumura T, Bakse J, Holmlund H, Blanchet G, Carrot E, Ikawa M, Ward MA. (2022) Loss of mouse Y chromosome gene Zfy1 and Zfy2 leads to spermatogenesis impairment, sperm defects, and infertility. Biology of Reproduction. Mar 16:ioac057. doi: 10.1093/biolre/ioac057.
  • Nguyen H, Wu H, Ung A, Yamazaki Y, Fogelgren B, Ward WS.(2022) Deletion of Orc4 during oogenesis severely reduces polar body extrusion and blocks zygotic DNA replication. Biology of Reproduction. 106(4):730-740.
  • Nakamatsu NA, Aytaš G, Mikami B, Thompson JD, Davis M 3rd, Rettenmeier C, Maziero D, Andrew Stenger V, Labrash S, Lenze S, Torigoe T, Lozanoff BK, Kaya B, Smith A, Douglas Miles J, Lee UY, Lozanoff S. (2022) Case-based radiological anatomy instruction using cadaveric MRI imaging and delivered with extended reality web technology. Eur J Radiol. 146:110043.
  • Kirkwood-Johnson L, Katayama N, Marikawa Y. (2021) Dolutegravir impairs stem cell-based 3D morphogenesis models in a manner dependent on dose and timing of exposure: an implication for its developmental toxicity. Toxicol Sci. 184(2):191-203.
  • Frankum R, Jameson TSO, Knight BA, Stephens FB, Wall BT, Donlon TA, Torigoe T, Willcox BJ, Willcox DC, Allsopp RC, Harries LW. (2021) Extreme longevity variants at the FOXO3 locus may moderate FOXO3 isoform levels. Geroscience. doi: 10.1007/s11357-021-00431-0.
  • Fujimoto BA, Young M, Nakamura N, Ha H, Carter L, Pitts MW, Torres D, Noh HL, Suk S, Kim JK, Polgar N.(2021) Disrupted glucose homeostasis and skeletal muscle-specific glucose uptake in an exocyst knockout mouse model. Am J Reprod Immunol. 85(1):e13328.
  • Saito Reis CA, Padron JG, Norman Ing ND, Kendal-Wright CE.(2021) High-mobility group box 1 is a driver of inflammation throughout pregnancy. J Biol Chem. 296:100482.
  • Freemyer BG, Urbi A, Torigoe T, Stickley C.(2021) Weight-Bearing Versus Traditional Strength Assessments of the Hip Musculature. J Athl Train. 56(2):191-6.
  • Li ASW, Marikawa Y.(2020) Methoxyacetic acid inhibits histone deacetylase and impairs axial elongation morphogenesis of mouse gastruloids in a retinoic acid signaling-dependent manner. Birth Defects Research. Aug;112(14):1043-1056.
  • Padron JG, Saito Reis CA, Kendal-Wright CE.(2020) The Role of Danger Associated Molecular Patterns in Human Fetal Membrane Weakening. Front Physiol. 2020 Jun 17;11:602.
  • Mishra PK, Adameova A, Hill JA, Baines CP, Kang PM, Downey JM, Narula J, Takahashi M, Abbate A, Piristine HC, Kar S, Su S, Higa JK, Kawasaki NK, Matsui T. (2019) Guidelines for evaluating myocardial cell death. Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. 2019 Nov 1;317(5):H891-H922.
  • Worsham M, Fernandes VFL, Settle A, Balaan C, Lactaoen K, Tuttle LJ, Iwashita M, Yoshizawa M. (2019) Behavioral Tracking and Neuromast Imaging of Mexican Cavefish. Journal of Visualized Experiments Apr 6;(146):10.3791/59099. doi: 10.3791/59099.
  • Fujimoto BA, Young M, Carter L, Pang APS, Corley MJ, Fogelgren B, Polgar N.(2019) The exocyst complex regulates insulin-stimulated glucose uptake of skeletal muscle cells. American Journal of Physiology (Endocrinology and Metabolism). doi: 10.1152/ajpendo.00109.2019. [Epub ahead of print]
  • Hew BE, Sato R, Mauro D, Stoytchev I, Owens JB.(2019) RNA-guided piggyBac transposition in human cells. Synthetic Biology (Oxford, England). 4:ysz018.
  • Riel JM, Yamauchi Y, Ruthig VA, Malinta QU, Blanco M, Moretti C, Cocquet J, Ward MA. (2019) Rescue of Sly Expression Is Not Sufficient to Rescue Spermiogenic Phenotype of Mice with Deletions of Y Chromosome Long Arm. Genes 10. pii: E133.
  • Ortega EA, Salvador Q, Fernandez M, Ward MA. (2019) Alterations of sex determination pathway in the genital ridges of males with limited Y chromosome genes. Biology of Reproduction 100:810-823.
  • Balaan C, Corley MJ, Eulalio T, Leite-Ahyo K, Pang APS, Fang R, Khadka VS, Maunakea AK, Ward MA. (2019) Juvenile Shank3b deficient mice present with behavioral phenotype relevant to autism spectrum disorder. Behavioural Brain Research 356:137-147.
  • Fernandes VFL, Macaspac C, Lu L, Yoshizawa M. (2018) Evolution of the developmental plasticity and a coupling between left mechanosensory neuromasts and an adaptive foraging behavior. Developmental Biology 441(2):262-271.
  • Warkus EL, Marikawa Y. (2018) Fluoxetine inhibits canonical Wnt signaling to impair embryoid body morphogenesis: potential teratogenic mechanisms of a commonly used antidepressant. Toxicological Sciences 165(2):372-388.
  • Davy PMC, Willcox DC, Shimabukuro M, Donlon TA, Torigoe T, Suzuki M, Higa M, Masuzaki H, Sata M, Chen R, Murkofsky RL, Morris BJ, Lim E, Allsopp RC, Willcox BJ. (2018) Minimal shortening of leukocyte telomere length across age groups in a cross-sectional study for carriers of a longevity-associated FOXO3 allele. The Journals of Gerontology 73(11):1448-1452.
  • Kim IQ, Marikawa Y. (2018) Embryoid body test with morphological and molecular endpoints implicates potential developmental toxicity of trans-resveratrol. Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology 355:211-225.


Important Notice to All Students

        The DRB Graduate Program Committee has recently issued the following two documents to define the nature of PhD and Master degrees (Plan A/B) in our program:

- Degrees offered in the DRB Graduate Program
- Master Plan A Research Criteria

These are relevant and applicable to both current as well as incoming students.