Bob Freeman

Research Interests

We are interested in the early strategic processes of the developing organism, particularly the establishment of the body plan (axes). Much work has been done in model organisms to elucidate the establishment of the body plan. But one question (of many) that remains is what processes were used by our common ancestor, and how does that reflect on the establishment of the body plan in humans and others in the chordate phyla.

Current Research

To this end, we are studying the enteropneust Saccoglossus kowalevskii (Acorn worm) and its early development. Using several complementary approaches, we have been studying the formation of the anteroposterior and dorsoventral axes. For the latter I have focused up on the establishment of opposing actions by BMP and Chordin, and how these opposing signals effect key downstream developmental processes. We utilize a number of techniques including gene discovery from EST sequencing, overexpression and RNAi microinejctions, in situs, and microarrays; as the genome sequence for Saccoglossus kowalevksii has been completed, we hope that comparative analyses with other model organisms will facilitate new discoveries concerning the organization of the early bilateral ancestor.

Methods and collaborators

Our multi-geographic research team includes Dr. John Gerhart, at the University of California Berkeley, and Dr. Chris Lowe, at University of Chicago. Each September our group travels to the Marine Biological Labs in Woods Hole, MA to work with the live animals. In addition to the wet-lab bench work, I am the primary developer and manager for our body of EST data; I also work closely with the entire team to design and deploy visualization tools for our team. I also am the lead person for the microarray design and analysis.