Craig S. Atwood, PhD

Position title: Associate Professor, Medicine


Phone: 608-256-1901

Organ System/Disease Focus:
Embryonic development , Alzheimer’s disease
Aligned Research Focus:
Basic Stem Cell Science
Craig Atwood headshot


More information:
Research Description:

We have been utilizing embryonic stem cells as a model system to understand the endocrinological signals that drive early human embryogenesis and age-related diseases. With respect to embryogenesis, we have identified human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) as a physiological signal that directs the division and differentiation of human embryonic stem cells (hESC) into a blastocyst (blastulation) and neural tube (neurulation). Trophoblastic secretion of hCG promotes the division of epiblast-derived inner mass cells (hESC), and their differentiation during blastulation and neurulation via the upregulation of progesterone (Gallego et al., 2008; 2010). This paracrine/juxtacrine signaling by extraembryonic tissues is the commencement of trophic support by placental tissues in the growth and development of the human embryo (Atwood et al., 2011; Atwood and Vadakkadath Meethal, 2016). With respect to age-related diseases, this hormonal induced differentiation appears to involve the amyloid-ß precursor protein which is associated with Alzheimer’s disease pathogenesis since amyloid-ß promotes hESC proliferation, while non-amyloidogenic processing of AßPP induces the differentiation of hESC into neural precursor cells (Porayette et al., 2007 and 2009). These comparative studies illustrate the important use of stem cells in delineating the hormonal mechanisms involved of development and disease. These comparative studies illustrate the important use of stem cells in delineating the hormonal mechanisms involved of development and disease (Atwood and Vadakkadath Meethal, 2016).

Selected References:
  • Gallego, M.J., Porayette, P., Kaltcheva, M.M., Bowen, R.L., Vadakkadath Meethal, S. and Atwood, C. S. (2010). The pregnancy hormones human chorionic gonadotropin and progesterone induce human embryonic stem cell proliferation and differentiation into neuroectodermal rosettes. Stem Cell Research & Therapy, 1:28.
  • Atwood, C. S. and Vadakkadath Meethal, S. (2011). Gonadotropins and Progestogens: Obligatory Developmental Functions during Early Embryogenesis and their Role in Adult Neurogenesis, Neuroregeneration, and Neurodegeneration. In: Hormones in Neurodegeneration, Neuroprotection and Neurogenesis, Eds. Achille Gravanis and Synthia Mellon, WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KgaA, Weinheim, Germany. Chapter 18, pp 305-319. ISBN: 978-3-527-31920-6
  • Atwood, C. S. and Vadakkadath Meethal, S. (2011). Human Embryonic Stem Cells as a Model System for Understanding Early Human Embryogenesis and Age-related Diseases. In: Embryonic Stem Cells. Ed. Craig S. Atwood. InTech, Rijeka, Croatia. Chapter 14, 251-270. ISBN: 978-953-307-196-1.
  • Bowen, R.L., Perry, G., Xiong, C., Smith, M.A., Atwood, C. S. (2015). A clinical study of Lupron Depot in the treatment of women with Alzheimer’s disease: Preservation of cognitive function in patients taking an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor and treated with high dose Lupron over 48 weeks. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 44(2), 549-560. doi: 10.3233/JAD-141626. PMID: 25310993
  • Atwood, C. S. and Vadakkadath Meethal, S. (2016). The Spatiotemporal Hormonal Orchestration of Human Folliculogenesis, Early Embryogenesis and Blastocyst Implantation. Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology. 430, 33-48.