• University Regensburg, Germany; Diploma; 1984; Biology
  • University of Heidelberg, Germany; Ph.D.; 1989; Biology
  • Yale University; Postdoc; Developmental Genetics

Research Interests

Research in my laboratory has been focused on birth defects that occur as result of adverse metabolic conditions of the mother during pregnancy. Neurulation, the developmental process to form the neural tube, represents a critical, yet highly complex step in development of the nervous system. Deficiencies of this morphogenetic process can lead to neural tube defects, one of the most common, and most disabling birth defects in humans. One leading cause for neural tube defects is maternal diabetes during pregnancy, with an up to 10-fold higher risk. Maternal obesity is associated with similar outcomes. Using diabetic pregnancies in the mouse as a model system and genomics technology, we have demonstrated molecular changes in the developing embryo as well as the placenta that are caused by maternal diet, diabetes, or both. The prevailing view has been that maternal diabetes disturbs the process of neural tube closure. Our recent observations now lead us to suggest that diabetes of the mother acts earlier, and perturbs newly formed mesoderm cells of the embryo during gastrulation.


Selected Publications

  1. Salbaum JM, Kruger C, MacGowan J, Herion NJ, Burk D, & Kappen C (2015). Novel Mode of Defective Neural Tube Closure in the Non-Obese Diabetic (NOD) Mouse Strain. Sci Rep. 5:16917.
  2. Herion NJ, Kruger C, Staszkiewicz J, Kappen C, Salbaum JM (2018). Embryonic cell migratory capacity is impaired upon exposure to glucose in vivo and in vitro. Birth Defects Res. 2019; 111(14):999-1012.
  3. Kappen C & Salbaum JM (2014). Gene expression in teratogenic exposures: A new approach to understanding individual risk. Reprod Toxicol 45C: 94-104.
  4. Salbaum JM & Kappen C (2012). Responses of the embryonic epigenome to maternal diabetes. Birth Defects Res A Clin Mol Teratol 2012; 94(10):770-81.