Welcome to Dr. Brenda Schoffstall’s Lab at Barry University

Dr. Schoffstall’s research interests focus on teaching undergraduates how to do scientific research while pursuing the discovery of a “molecular proliferation switch” that can be used to turn on muscle cell division to repair damaged hearts or damaged skeletal muscle.

Teaching Undergraduates How to Do Scientific Research

While novel scientific discovery is an important focus in Dr. Schoffstall’s lab group, her largest passion and priority is training new scientists how to do research and do it well. “I am passionate about creating an environment where students learn the correct way to plan a research project from the ground up and giving them some of the tools to carry out their plans,” Dr. Schoffstall said.

By approaching scientific research at Barry University in this way, Dr. Schoffstall has been highly successful in graduating students who go on to positions in research labs, graduate schools, PhD programs, PA programs and MD programs. She has also been successful in creating the stage for undergraduate researchers to publish in scientific journals before they ever graduate from college. “It is very important to me that I give them the proper tools and knowledge to go on to research intensive institutions and succeed on their own,” she said.

Pursuit of a Myocyte Proliferation Switch

Danio rerio zebrafish share many physiological and genetic characteristics with humans, making them an attractive model system for scientific research. Previously, zebrafish have been shown to completely regenerate significant portions of heart, fin and tail tissues without loss of function or the formation of permanent scar tissue.

Dr. Schoffstall’s lab group focuses its research on discovering which genes are expressed to produce proteins that “turn on” this regenerative capability in zebrafish—particularly in muscle tissue. Human muscle cells (“myocytes”) do not readily divide (“proliferate”) to produce new, working muscle tissue. This is partly because certain gene pathways that stimulate myocyte cell division are “turned off” in human cells. If researchers can identify a molecular proliferation switch in zebrafish that enables them to regenerate tissues, they may be able to apply this information to human systems to stimulate myocyte cell division after damage or stress.

To investigate this, Dr. Schoffstall’s lab group focuses on zebrafish hearts that are experimentally stressed to overwork and enlarge via cell division and on tissue repair of skeletal and surrounding tissues (epithelial, nerve, connective) following a deep-puncture burn wound. Her lab group also investigates other aspects of wound healing in general, dealing with infection and biofilm formation within infected wounds.

Contact Dr. Schoffstall

For more information about Dr. Schoffstall and her research, contact Dr. Schoffstall at 305-899-4004 or BSchoffstall@barry.edu

Dr. Schoffstall’s office/lab is located on Barry’s main campus in Room 305 of the Natural and Health Sciences (NHS) Building.