Dr. Wert has a long-standing scientific interest in lung development, malformations, and disease with an emphasis on the regulation of morphogenesis and cytodifferentiation of the respiratory tract in both mice and humans. She has extensive experience and expertise in electron microscopy, histochemistry, in situ hybridization, immunohistochemistry and immunofluorescence techniques, as well as in microscopy, image analysis, and morphometry. In her capacity as director of the Molecular Morphology Core (1991-2013), she has trained numerous technicians, graduate students, clinical fellows, post-docs, research associates, faculty and visiting scholars in these techniques. Dr. Wert has co-authored over 100 peer-reviewed articles, book chapters, and reviews with Dr. Jeffrey Whitsett (Cincinnati Children's), describing studies related to transgenic mouse models of normal and abnormal lung development, cytodifferentiation, lung injury and repair, as well as surfactant metabolism and dysfunction in both mice and humans. She has a long-standing collaboration with Drs. Lawrence Nogee (Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore MD), Aaron Hamvas (Washington University, St. Louis, MO, and Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine) and Bruce Trapnell (Cincinnati Children's) to identify and describe lung disorders caused by mutations in the human SFTPB, SFTPC, ABCA3, NKX2-1, and GM-CSFR genes. These are rare genetic diseases that disrupt surfactant function and metabolism in the lung, resulting in respiratory distress and failure at birth, or in chronic interstitial lung disease in older infants, children, adolescents and adults.
Currently, Dr. Wert is a consultant for the NHLBI Molecular Atlas of Lung Development Program (LungMAP) Consortium, which is a cooperative research project tasked with building an integrated, open-access database to characterize the molecular anatomy of the later stages of lung development in both mice and humans. As co-chair and scientific domain lead for the ontology subcommittee, Dr. Wert has developed comprehensive anatomical ontologies for mouse and human lung maturation. She also assists with ongoing analysis of protein/gene expression in the lung during alveolar (airspace) development and maturation, especially with the interpretation of immunofluorescence assays utilizing cell-specific markers and confocal microscopy.
Lung development, injury and repair as it pertains to molecular morphology (gene and protein expression in situ); ultrastructure, and histopathology of the developing and adult lung; the histopathology of the human lung as it relates to interstitial lung disease, especially to genetic disorders of surfactant dysfunction in the neonatal and pediatric population that are caused by mutations in the human SFTPC, SFTPB, ABCA3, and NKX2-1 genes.
Structural morphology of the lung; tissue responses to acute and chronic lung injury; morphogenesis and cytodifferentiation of the developing lung; use of gene knock out and transgenic mouse models to study mechanisms of lung development and genetic lung disease; development of molecular markers to study respiratory epithelial cell differentiation and for cell lineage studies; image analysis and morphometry.
Associate Professor, UC Department of Pediatrics