Biology major Lacey Harris looks into ovarian health at University of Kansas Medical Center


Lacey posing with LEC gearSince June 4, 2018, Lacey Harris has been performing basic biomedical research in the University of Kansas Medical Center (KUMC) Department of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Therapeutics. The biology major won entry to the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) Program at KUMC.

Spanning ten weeks, SURF focuses on pharmacology and toxicology. Its summer fellows work in the laboratory of a designated faculty member and attend weekly discussions with faculty members, postdoctoral fellows and current toxicology graduate students. On August 9, they will present their research work in a typical graduate student seminar setting.

Harris is working with Michele T. Pritchard, Ph.D. in collaboration with Francesca E. Duncan, Ph.D. Together, they are investigating a potential correlation between the loss of ovarian hyaluronan and chronic inflammation and fibrosis observed in aged or injured ovaries.

“We think these processes contribute to decreased gamete viability as women age or if they are subject to iatrogenic insults such as chemotherapy and radiation,” Harris said.

An assistant professor at KUMC, Dr. Pritchard researches liver disease, particularly its correlation with hyaluronan and the process of regenerative wound repair.

She and Dr. Duncan, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University, collaborated on a June 2016 study demonstrating the development and progression of ovarian fibrosis and declining fertility accompanying chronic inflammation in mice. Their work was featured on the cover of Reproduction (published by the Society for Endocrinology’s Bioscientifica) and on BBC radio’s “The Naked Scientists.”

Lacey using microscopeNow, with Harris on their team, the two researchers are exploring how the hyaluronan network can drive chronic inflammation and fibrosis in the aging ovaries of mice, naked mole rats and humans. They hope to find new ways to prevent organ fibrosis.

LEC Associate Professor of Biology Deborah Schulman, Ph.D., whose research focuses on genetics and molecular biology, previously collaborated with a colleague at KUMC to study the drivers of fatty liver disease attributed to alcohol abuse. Her students at LEC analyzed animal tissue samples sent from Kansas City.

Dr. Schulman plans to join Harris at KUMC when SURF fellows present their work next month.

For more information, contact Dr. Deborah Schulman at or 440-375-7351.

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