Wendy Mars, PhD

Wendy Mars

Wendy Mars, PhD


Director, Pathology Graduate Program and Summer Undergraduate Research Program
Associate Professor, Department of Pathology

S407 Biomedical Science Tower
200  Lothrop Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15261

Liver-Related Work

Research Background: I obtained my BS in Medical Technology at Arizona State University and am ASCP certified, having worked in a clinical cytogenetics laboratory as a Medical Technologist. Subsequently, I obtained my PhD under Grady F. Saunders, PhD, at the MD Anderson Cancer Center (MDACC) studying the “Molecular Genetics of Cancer”, using Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML) as a model.   My thesis work identified the alpha-defensins DEFA1 and DEFA3 (formerly known as HP-1 and HP-3) as the most abundantly expressed genes in the chronic phase of CML; subsequently that led me to discover that these innate immunity genes normally exhibit copy number variations (CNVs) in the human population. For one year following graduation, I studied breast cancer genetics at MDACC before moving to the Pittsburgh area where I have resided, since 1990, with my research focusing on the study of normal and abnormal liver regeneration. 
Liver Research:  In Pittsburgh I began my career as a Research Associate in the Department of Pathology under the tutelage of George K. Michalopoulos, MD, PhD, where I identified the urokinase- and tissue-type plasminogen activators (u-PA and t-PA) as two stoichiometric activators of Hepatocyte Growth Factor (HGF), with u-PA now accepted to be the prime activator of HGF during normal liver regeneration.  At the time, stoichiometric activation was considered a non-conventional function for these two proteins; previously both were considered to solely function as enzymes.  Subsequently, my work evolved into the study of other non-conventional roles for u-PA and especially t-PA in the liver such as the ability of t-PA to signal through the Lipoprotein Receptor-related Protein 1 (LRP1) as a means of regulating stellate cell differentiation.  Currently my work focuses on the role of LRP1 as it relates to hepatocyte/biliary transdifferentiation.  I also have in interest in the HGF/IL-6 axis.
Transgenic Animals:
I am in an ongoing collaboration with Dr. George Michalopoulos, Chair, Department of Pathology, on the factors leading to liver regeneration. In this capacity, I am responsible for oversight of the large transgenic colonies maintained by both our laboratories.  Lineages are as follows: 
  • Cre recominase under an alpha feto protein enhancer driven albumin promoter (Afp/Alb)
  • Glypican transgenic under an albumin promoter
  • HGF flox crossed with a cre recombinase under an inducible tamoxifen promoter
  • HGF transgenic under a GFAP promoter
  • Integrin Linked Kinase (ILK) flox
  • LRP1 flox crossed with the Afp/Alb cre recominase
  • Lymphocyte Specific Protein 1 (LSP1) knockout 
  • LSP1 transgenic under an albumin promoter
  • MET flox crossed with a cre recombinase under an inducible tamoxifen promoter
  • MET flox crossed with the Afp/Alb cre recominase
  • MET flox crossed with a lysZ cre recominase
  • u-PA knockout
  • u-PA receptor knockout
  • In addition, for Dr. Cary Wu I maintain the following colony: Kindlin 2 flox crossed with the Afp/Alb cre recombinase


Special Interest Groups: 
Regenerative Medicine