Tom Drysdale

Genetics & Development Dr. Tom Drysdale


Scientist, Division of Genetics & Development, Children’s Health Research Institute
Associate Professor, Departments of Paediatrics, Physiology and Pharmacology, Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, Western University

How my research helps children

Congenital heart defects affect approximately 1% of all newborns.  Very little is known about the causes of these defects or how to predict or prevent them.  This is largely because heart development is a very complex process that must be very tightly orchestrated in order to create the hard working organ we rely on our whole life.  

Our lab is trying to understand the basic mechanisms that are used to define where and when the heart forms. The heart first forms a simple tube and then undergoes a series of coordinated looping movements that generates the four chambers we see in mature hearts.  We are examining how the movements of individual cells are controlled to cause those complex changes in shape.  By doing so, we hope to understand where errors in the process can occur and how these may be important in causing the congenital heart defects we see in children. From this information, we can find ways to correct or prevent defects.  Also, identification of underlying genetic causes of heart defects may help parents determine the likelihood of heart defects when planning a family.

In a similar way, we are also trying to understand how the lung and thyroid form with the aim of helping improve the outcomes for babies that are born prematurely.


Current Research Activities

The lab is currently looking at the cellular mechanisms that drive the morphogenetic changes, in particular the initial formation of a tube.  We are trying to link the transcription factors known to be required for normal heart development with specific changes in the form of the heart.  We have identified a protein that is involved in changes in the shape of individual cells and we are analyzing heart defects that are in mice lacking this protein.  The lab is also analyzing important signaling events that define the early lung and thyroid using the Xenopus model system.

Research Team

Current Lab Members:
Rami Halabi (MSc student)
Lucimar Ferreira (Technician)

Former Graduate Students:
Steve Deimling
Meaghan Melling
Stephanie Grover
Zhao Yong
Miranzda George
Joel Broomfield
Stephanie Cossette
Andrew Collop
Joon Kim
Robert Garriock

Future Research Plans

I am currently interested in trying to link the information we have on key transcription factors that, when mutated, cause congenital heart defects and our data on factors that control cellular shape changes.  This would start to build a picture of how heart morphology is controlled and provide a much better idea of how defects in form could be caused.

Awards & Grants

Awards & Grants

Schulich Educator Award - Awarded through the Schulich Excellence in Education Awards (Graduate/Postgraduate)

Funding in support of The Molecular Basis of Thyroid and Lung Development - Awarded by Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) Discovery Accelerator Supplement

Funding in support of The Molecular Basis of Thyroid and Lung Development - Awarded by Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC)

Funding in support of The Roles of Retinoic acid in Cardiac Development and Physiology – Awarded by Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR)

Funding in support of Graduate Studentship – Awarded by CIHR

Funding in support of Graduate Studentship – Awarded by The University of Western Ontario

Funding in support of Graduate Studentship – Awarded by Lawson Health Research Institute

Funding in support of Graduate Studentship – Awarded by The University of Western Ontario

Funding in support of Summer Studentship – Awarded by Heart and Stroke Foundation

Funding in support of Graduate Studentship – Awarded by Cadman Foundation

Recent Publications


Retinoic acid is a key regulatory switch determining the difference between lung and thyroid fates in Xenopus laevis
Wang JH, Deimling SJ, D'Alessandro NE, Zhao L, Possmayer F, Drysdale TA
BMC Developmental Biology.  2011 December, 11:75

Direct activation of Shroom3 transcription by Pitx proteins drives epithelial morphogenesis in the developing gut
Chung MI, Nascone-Yoder NM, Grover SA, Drysdale TA, Wallingford JB.
Development. 2010 Apr;137(8):1339-49

Retinoic acid enhances skeletal muscle progenitor formation and bypasses inhibition by bone morphogenetic protein 4 but not dominant negative beta-catenin
Kennedy KA, Porter T, Mehta V, Ryan SD, Price F, Peshdary V, Karamboulas C, Savage J, Drysdale TA, Li SC, Bennett SA, Skerjanc IS.
BMC Biol. 2009 Oct 8;7:67

Retinoic acid regulates anterior-posterior patterning within the lateral plate mesoderm of Xenopus
Deimling SJ, Drysdale TA.
Mech Dev. 2009 Oct;126(10):913-23

APhA2006 House of Delegates action: forming consensus on contemporary issues that reflect the profession's priorities
Sommers-Hanson J, Tomecki M, Tommasello A, Drysdale TA
J Am Pharm Assoc (2003). 2006 Sep-Oct;46(5):536, 538-40, 542-4

Retinoic acid signaling is essential for formation of the heart tube in Xenopus
Collop AH, Broomfield JA, Chandraratna RA, Yong Z, Deimling SJ, Kolker SJ, Weeks DL, Drysdale TA
Dev Biol. 2006 Mar 1;291(1):96-109.

Additional publications



Phone: (519) 685-8500, x55072
Fax: (519) 685-8186
Email: tadrysda [at] uwo [dot] ca

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