North Texas Daily

Cardiovascular research uses alligators

Cardiovascular research uses alligators

March 05
23:49 2013

Olivia Sylvain / Intern

UNT biology professors Dane Crossley and Michael Hedrick have combined research projects to determine how the cardiovascular system develops in reptiles such as alligators, to see if there are any similarities between the ancient creatures and humans.

In June 2011, he received a $746,739 grant from the National Science Foundation for his project, titled “Maturation of Cardiovascular Physiology in Embryonic Reptiles.” The three-year project will end in June 2014.

Professor Dane Crossley leads a study of the development of the cardiovascular system in reptiles. The biology department raises the alligators on campus and studies the differences in generations. Photo by Aimee Pass/Staff Photographer

Although their individual research focuses on different animals and different systems of the body, Crossley and Hedrick have been able to combine some of their experiments. Hedrick said Crossley’s research gives great insight to how these critical body systems develop.

“The first question you’re trying to answer is ‘how does the cardiovascular system develop?’” he said. “There are some similarities and differences between reptiles and humans that change as the body develops.”

In order to keep the animals safe, the location of the facility where the animals are held cannot be disclosed. However, there are more than 50 alligators to work with.

Crossley’s research focuses on the physiology of vertebrates, mostly alligators, as they develop. He also studies a variety of other amphibians, reptiles and birds.

“The work I am doing now stems off work I began doing in my post-doctorate at the University of California, Irvine,” he said.

Crossley has been doing his research for more than 10 years. “I’m trying to understand how embryonic or developing reptiles’ cardiovascular system develops,” Crossley said.

“There’s also been previous work done on birds so I’m trying to understand how the two systems might be similar or different.”

On the other hand, Hedrick conducts research on amphibians. He has been able to work with Crossley to improve their individual research. After arriving at UNT in the fall of 2011, Hedrick reunited with his colleague of 15 years.

“Being able to work in the same place with the same interests has allowed us to collaborate and try new things,” Hedrick said.

The help he has received from his fellow professors has made the move to UNT easier according to Crossley.

“The university and my colleagues have been great,” Crossley said. “The transition was easy because of the convenient buildings.”

The National Science Foundation offers funding for research in all areas of science.

Students and educators can apply for funding through a variety of awards. The applications go through a process of field reviews by experts in different sciences, according to a representative of the NSF.

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