2021 Legacy Research Grant Award recipient - Dr. Tamara Franz Odendaal

2021 Legacy Research Grant Recipient - Dr. Tamara Franz-Odendaal

About the Researcher:

Dr Franz-Odendaal joined the Mount in 2006 and is a Full Professor in the Department
of Biology. Dr Franz-Odendaal currently holds the NSERC Atlantic Chair for
Women in Science and Engineering . Through this position, she leads a program
called WISEatlantic that empowers young women to pursue a career in STEM and
provides professional development opportunities for junior STEM professionals.
Dr Franz-Odendaal received the Mount’s Research Excellence Award in 2015 and
the American Association of Anatomists Young Investigator’s Award in 2013. More
recently she was awarded the MSVU Diversity and Inclusion Leadership Award
(2020) and was recognized as a Fellow of the American Association of Anatomy
(2020). She serves on the editorial board of a number of leading journals in her
areas of expertise. Dr Franz-Odendaal is the current President of the Nova Scotian
Institute of Science and a co-founder and lead ally of the Canadian Black Scientists

In the past Dr Franz-Odendaal has served on the board of Science Atlantic,
CCWESTT, the Pan-American Evolutionary-Developmental Biology Society, the
Canadian Society of Zoologists, the American Association of Anatomists and the
Nova Scotian Institute of Science. Within federal granting agencies, she has served
on the NSERC PromoScience Selection committee and the NSERC Discovery
Grants Review Panel.

Ph.D. in Paleontology, University of Cape Town
M.Sc. in Developmental Biology, University of Cape Town
B.Sc in Developmental Biology, University of Cape Town

Research Lab Website: http://www.bonedevelopmentlab.ca/

Description of the Research:

Genetic interactions defining the major air passage way to the lungs - the trachea

Diseases can appear clinically at any stage of life and many diseases have origins
during development. Regardless of when a disease is diagnosed, understanding
the development of organs provides considerable insight into disease prevention
and treatment. Fundamental science knowledge has proven to be essential to
the prevention and treatment of diseases, as has clearly been demonstrated in
the current global pandemic.

This study will focus on development of the proximal area of the lung, specifically
the region that becomes the major air passageway to the lung, the trachea.
Abnormal development of the trachea is associated with congenital birth
defects. Furthermore, tracheal diseases such as the development of scar tissue
after prolonged intubation (tracheal stenosis) and tracheobronchomalacia,
which develops from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (e.g. from cigarette
smoking) can result in collapse or closure of the trachea, impacting breathing
and potentially resulting in death. The signals involved in lung and trachea
development are the same signals that are involved in lung and tracheal disease,
therefore it is critical that we understand how these signals interact with one

This study will build on previous work utilizing the chicken embryo as a model
organism to study the respiratory system as this organism oers many
advantages over other model organisms (e.g. mice) such as the ability to easily
manipulate single gene pathways. This study will provide a deep understanding
of which signals are critical for proper development of this critical proximal lung
region and how these signals interact with one another. As these same signals
are known to play critical roles in lung and tracheal disease, by understanding
how they work together, we will be able to develop targeted gene therapies and
other interventions to prevent progression (or even onset) of diseases of the
trachea. Nova Scotia has the highest incidence of chronic obstructive pulmonary
disease in the Canada and records the greatest number of deaths due to cancer
of the trachea, bronchus and lung. With 1 in 5 Nova Scotians living with lung
disease, methods to prevent lung disease must be a priority.

Page Last Updated: 13/08/2021