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Tutor in Biochemical Sciences

Mary Loeken

Tutor in Biochemical Sciences

Associate Professor of Medicine (Physiology)


Mary Loeken is an Investigator in the Section on Islet Cell and Regenerative Biology at the Joslin Diabetes Center and an Associate Professor in the Department of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.  She received her B.A. in Biology from Gonzaga University in Spokane, WA and her Ph.D. in Reproductive Endocrinology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, MD. Following postdoctoral training in the Laboratory of Molecular Virology at the National Cancer Institute, she joined the Research Division of the Joslin Diabetes Center in 1988. Her laboratory studies the molecular causes of diabetic embryopathy, a diabetic complication in which the embryos of mothers with pregestational diabetes develop congenital malformations. Her laboratory developed a mouse model of diabetic pregnancy with which they have studied how maternal hyperglycemia causes neural tube defects, one of the most common malformations that occur in human diabetic pregnancy. They have delineated several biochemical processes that are perturbed by excess glucose metabolism and prevent induction of genes that are required for neural tube closure, and have demonstrated how abnormal embryo gene expression leads to apoptosis, causing a neural tube defect. Recently, they have established new mouse embryonic stem cell lines under physiological glucose and oxygen conditions. These cell lines replicate the metabolic and molecular responses of the embryo to normal and excess glucose exposure in a dish. The ultimate goal of her research is to advance methods to prevent, detect, or treat congenital malformations induced by diabetic pregnancy.