Rusty Lansford, PhD

Associate Professor of Research Radiology

Image of Rusty Lansford, PhD
Is this your profile? Click to edit


Form and function of embryogenesis and pathogenesis
Many diseases can be considered as a failure of development. Investigating the borderland of embryology and pathology is a fundamental method for learning the rules of development. My group investigates the fundamental principles that guide how cells self-organize through collective interactions to bring about changes in embryonic form and function. By integrating advanced molecular, imaging, single cell transcriptomics, and statistical approaches, we study how molecules work together to control the timing and the spatial pattern of cell differentiation in developing tissues and stem cell systems.

Germ cells retain the capacity for both totipotency and immortality. They link one generation to the next and so are fundamental to the survival and evolution of living organisms. Germ cells migrate during the critical process of gastrulation, when the three primary germ layers-ectoderm, endoderm, and mesoderm—are form and the primary body axes are established. We are taking an interdisciplinary approach to studying primordial germ cell (PGC) development in the context of gastrulating embryos by combining the power of molecular genetics with advanced optical imaging within living embryos. Transgenic quail that ubiquitously express fluorescent proteins provide a novel amniote model system that permits investigations in living embryos with unprecedented spatiotemporal resolution. The quail epiblast, like the human epiblast, flattens out to form a disc, from which the primitive streak arises at one end. The dynamics of spatial relationship between lineages in the gastrulating human remain unexplored. Our studies address outstanding questions fundamental to PGC development and early embryogenesis including when, where, and how they are specified, how balance their need to move with their need to proliferate, and how they move in and out of the living embryo. PGCs have important therapeutic implications for the field of reproductive medicine; however, further development of tools and studies of the mechanisms to specify and maintain germ cell niches in diverse systems are essential for an improved understanding of germline development and reproductive health.


  • U.S. Fulbright NSF Arctic Scholar to Iceland: Conservation and assisted reproduction using Atlantic Puffin germline stem cells, 2020-2021
  • Bridge Art + Science Alliance: New Ways of Seeing the Pattern: Exploring Heart Formation in a Gestural Interface System, 2017
  • NASA Space Act Award : Two-photon Microscope Imaging Spectrometer for Multiple Fluorescent Probes (along with Greg Bearman, 2003
  • R&D 100 Award: META multispectral imager (along with Greg Bearman, Scott Fraser, and Carl Zeiss Jena GmbH), 2003


  • Follow Me! A Tale of Avian Heart Development with Comparisons to Mammal Heart Development J Cardiovasc Dev Dis. 2020 Mar 07; 7(1). . View in PubMed
  • The quail genome: insights into social behaviour, seasonal biology and infectious disease response BMC Biol. 2020 02 12; 18(1):14. . View in PubMed
  • Fast and Efficient Expression of Multiple Proteins in Avian Embryos Using mRNA Electroporation J Vis Exp. 2019 06 07; (148). . View in PubMed
  • Avian Primordial Germ Cells Contribute to and Interact With the Extracellular Matrix During Early Migration Front Cell Dev Biol. 2019; 7:35. . View in PubMed
  • Multi-scale quantification of tissue behavior during amniote embryo axis elongation Development. 2017 Dec 01; 144(23):4462-4472. . View in PubMed
  • Basal filopodia and vascular mechanical stress organize fibronectin into pillars bridging the mesoderm-endoderm gap Development. 2017 01 15; 144(2):281-291. . View in PubMed
  • Fluorescent Quail: A Transgenic Model System for the Dynamic Study of Avian Development Methods Mol Biol. 2017; 1650:125-147. . View in PubMed
  • In vivo time-lapse imaging reveals extensive neural crest and endothelial cell interactions during neural crest migration and formation of the dorsal root and sympathetic ganglia Dev Biol. 2016 May 01; 413(1):70-85. . View in PubMed
  • Mapping a multiplexed zoo of mRNA expression Development. 2016 10 01; 143(19):3632-3637. . View in PubMed
  • A transgenic quail model that enables dynamic imaging of amniote embryogenesis Development. 2015 Aug 15; 142(16):2850-9. . View in PubMed
  • Dynamic imaging of the growth plate cartilage reveals multiple contributors to skeletal morphogenesis Nat Commun. 2015 Apr 13; 6:6798. . View in PubMed
  • Combinatorial analysis of mRNA expression patterns in mouse embryos using hybridization chain reaction Cold Spring Harb Protoc. 2015 Mar 02; 2015(3):259-68. . View in PubMed
  • The left-right Pitx2 pathway drives organ-specific arterial and lymphatic development in the intestine Dev Cell. 2014 Dec 22; 31(6):690-706. . View in PubMed
  • Generation and analysis of lentivirus expressing a 2A peptide-linked bicistronic fluorescent construct Cold Spring Harb Protoc. 2014 Dec 01; 2014(12):1290-311. . View in PubMed
  • Airway branching has conserved needs for local parasympathetic innervation but not neurotransmission BMC Biol. 2014 Nov 11; 12:92. . View in PubMed
  • Prometastatic GPCR CD97 is a direct target of tumor suppressor microRNA-126 ACS Chem Biol. 2014 Feb 21; 9(2):334-8. . View in PubMed
  • Identification of emergent motion compartments in the amniote embryo Organogenesis. 2014; 10(4):350-64. . View in PubMed
  • Transgenesis and imaging in birds, and available transgenic reporter lines Dev Growth Differ. 2013 May; 55(4):406-21. . View in PubMed
  • Embryogenesis of the first circulating endothelial cells PLoS One. 2013; 8(5):e60841. . View in PubMed
  • Transgenic quail as a model for research in the avian nervous system: a comparative study of the auditory brainstem J Comp Neurol. 2013 Jan 01; 521(1):5-23. . View in PubMed
  • Time-lapse microscopy of macrophages during embryonic vascular development Dev Dyn. 2012 Sep; 241(9):1423-31. . View in PubMed
  • Convective tissue movements play a major role in avian endocardial morphogenesis Dev Biol. 2012 Mar 15; 363(2):348-61. . View in PubMed
  • 4D fluorescent imaging of embryonic quail development Cold Spring Harb Protoc. 2011 Nov 01; 2011(11):1291-4. . View in PubMed
  • Preparation and 4D fluorescent imaging of quail embryos Cold Spring Harb Protoc. 2011 Nov 01; 2011(11):1375-82. . View in PubMed
  • High-speed multicolor microscopy of repeating dynamic processes Genesis. 2011 Jul; 49(7):514-21. . View in PubMed
  • Dynamic lineage analysis of embryonic morphogenesis using transgenic quail and 4D multispectral imaging Genesis. 2011 Jul; 49(7):619-43. . View in PubMed
  • Advanced optical imaging in living embryos Cell Mol Life Sci. 2010 Oct; 67(20):3489-97. . View in PubMed
  • Multispectral fingerprinting for improved in vivo cell dynamics analysis BMC Dev Biol. 2010 Sep 24; 10:101. . View in PubMed
  • Dynamic analysis of vascular morphogenesis using transgenic quail embryos PLoS One. 2010 Sep 14; 5(9):e12674. . View in PubMed
  • Watching the assembly of an organ a single cell at a time using confocal multi-position photoactivation and multi-time acquisition Organogenesis. 2009 Oct; 5(4):238-47. . View in PubMed
  • Dynamic positional fate map of the primary heart-forming region Dev Biol. 2009 Aug 15; 332(2):212-22. . View in PubMed
  • Screening for transgenic Japanese quail offspringCold Spring Harb Protoc. 2009 Jan; 2009(1):pdb. prot5119. . View in PubMed
  • Japanese quail: an efficient animal model for the production of transgenic aviansCold Spring Harb Protoc. 2009 Jan; 2009(1):pdb. emo112. . View in PubMed
  • Generation of high-titer lentivirus for the production of transgenic quailCold Spring Harb Protoc. 2009 Jan; 2009(1):pdb. prot5117. . View in PubMed
  • Injection of lentivirus into stage-X blastoderm for the production of transgenic quailCold Spring Harb Protoc. 2009 Jan; 2009(1):pdb. prot5118. . View in PubMed
  • Japanese quail (Coturnix japonica) as a laboratory animal model Lab Anim (NY). 2008 Nov; 37(11):513-9. . View in PubMed
  • Generating transgenic quail using lentiviruses Methods Cell Biol. 2008; 87:281-93. . View in PubMed
  • Ex Ovo Electroporation of DNA Vectors into Pre-gastrulation Avian EmbryosCSH Protoc. 2007 Dec 01; 2007:pdb. prot4894. . View in PubMed
  • Nociceptive sensory neurons derive from contralaterally migrating, fate-restricted neural crest cells Nat Neurosci. 2007 Oct; 10(10):1287-93. . View in PubMed
  • Digital three-dimensional atlas of quail development using high-resolution MRI ScientificWorldJournal. 2007 May 11; 7:592-604. . View in PubMed
  • Electroporation and EGFP labeling of gastrulating quail embryos Dev Dyn. 2006 Oct; 235(10):2802-10. . View in PubMed
  • Formation and removal of alkylthiolate self-assembled monolayers on gold in aqueous solutions Lab Chip. 2006 Feb; 6(2):289-95. . View in PubMed
  • Four-color, 4-D time-lapse confocal imaging of chick embryos Biotechniques. 2005 Nov; 39(5):703-10. . View in PubMed
  • Circulating blood island-derived cells contribute to vasculogenesis in the embryo proper Dev Biol. 2003 Oct 01; 262(1):162-72. . View in PubMed
  • Becoming a new neuron in the adult olfactory bulb Nat Neurosci. 2003 May; 6(5):507-18. . View in PubMed
  • Multi-spectral imaging and linear unmixing add a whole new dimension to laser scanning fluorescence microscopy Biotechniques. 2001 Dec; 31(6):12721274-61278. . View in PubMed
  • Gene transfer to the embryo: strategies for the delivery and expression of proteins at 48 to 56 hours postfertilization J Pediatr Surg. 2001 Aug; 36(8):1304-7. . View in PubMed
  • Resolution of multiple green fluorescent protein color variants and dyes using two-photon microscopy and imaging spectroscopy J Biomed Opt. 2001 Jul; 6(3):311-8. . View in PubMed
  • Imaging cells in the developing nervous system with retrovirus expressing modified green fluorescent protein Exp Neurol. 1999 Apr; 156(2):394-406. . View in PubMed
  • Germline transcription and recombination of a murine VDJmudeltagamma1 transgene Int Immunol. 1998 Aug; 10(8):1027-37. . View in PubMed
  • Ku70 is required for late B cell development and immunoglobulin heavy chain class switching J Exp Med. 1998 Jun 15; 187(12):2081-9. . View in PubMed
  • Ig heavy chain class switching in Rag-deficient mice Int Immunol. 1998 Mar; 10(3):325-32. . View in PubMed
  • Interactions of Eph-related receptors and ligands confer rostrocaudal pattern to trunk neural crest migration Curr Biol. 1997 Aug 01; 7(8):571-80. . View in PubMed
  • A class switch control region at the 3′ end of the immunoglobulin heavy chain locus Cell. 1994 Jun 03; 77(5):737-47. . View in PubMed
  • Influence of immunoglobulin heavy- and light-chain expression on B-cell differentiation Genes Dev. 1994 May 01; 8(9):1043-57. . View in PubMed
  • S region transcription per se promotes basal IgE class switch recombination but additional factors regulate the efficiency of the process EMBO J. 1994 Feb 01; 13(3):665-74. . View in PubMed
  • RAG-2-deficient blastocyst complementation: an assay of gene function in lymphocyte development Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1993 May 15; 90(10):4528-32. . View in PubMed
  • A promoter element that exerts positive and negative control of the interleukin 2-responsive J-chain gene Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1992 Jul 01; 89(13):5966-70. . View in PubMed
  • Isolation of coordinately regulated genes that are expressed in discrete stages of B-cell development Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1990 Aug; 87(15):5759-63. . View in PubMed