Natasza Kurpios, PhD

Department of Molecular Medicine


Natasza Kurpios' Lab

Department of Molecular Medicine
Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine
C4-161 Veterinary Medical Center
Ithaca, NY 14853

Office: 607.253.4452
Lab: 607.253.3348

Research Interest

My lab at Cornell uses embryos of the mouse and chicken to study how basic cellular processes determine the shape and function of organs. Unlike our symmetrical appearance on the outside, internal organs like the heart, liver, and stomach are carefully arranged in a left-right asymmetric pattern. This packs the organs into the limited space of the body while preserving their crucial functions. An important model to study organ asymmetry is the process of gut rotation, where the intestine achieves its familiar twisted form. My lab has previously shown that this process hinges on the neighboring dorsal mesentery, a tissue bridge anchoring the gut tube that later becomes a conduit for blood and lymphatic vessels that supply the gut tube. Unexpectedly, we learned that vascular development of the gut is linked to gut rotation and dependent on the gene Pitx2. This finding is important because gut lymphatics figure prominently in the pathogenesis of some of the most intractable diseases, including lymphedema, inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, diabetes, and cancer. Moreover, gut lymphatics serve as the major channels for absorption and transport of dietary lipids, a function that separates them from all other lymphatics. However, the mechanisms governing their specialized functions in the gut remain unknown. We discovered that Pitx2 regulates gut lymphatic development through a non-cell autonomous pathway dependent on the adjacent smooth muscle lineage. Pitx2 deficient pups have abnormal muscle morphogenesis, resulting in impaired lymphatics and lipid transport. These data show a new role for Pitx2 in gut absorptive function - the business of the digestive tract, and highlight the crucial interplay between lymphatics and their smooth muscle (mesenchymal) neighbors. Based on these data, our current research is divided among the following areas: 1) Mechanisms underlying intestinal muscular-lymphatic assembly and villus contractility; 2) Spatiotemporal reconstruction of the origin and assembly of smooth muscles in the intestinal villus; 3) Mapping lymphatic endothelial heterogeneity in the mouse intestine. We expect that our work will lead to significant novel paradigms in both basic biology and clinical medicine.


  • Postdoctoral fellow, Harvard Medical School, 2009
  • Ph D, Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences, McMaster University, 2005
  • B. Sc., Biochemistry, McMaster University, 1999

Biography/Professional Experience

  • 2022-Present Professor, Department of Molecular Medicine, Cornell University
  • 2016-2022, Associate Professor, Department of Molecular Medicine, Cornell University
  • 2009-2016, Tenure-track Assistant Professor, Department of Molecular Medicine, Cornell University
  • 2005-2009, Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Genetics, Harvard Medical School
  • 1999-2005, Graduate Doctoral Research, Centre for Functional Genomics, McMaster University
  • 1998-1999, Undergraduate Dissertation Research, Department of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences, McMaster University
  • 1996-1998, Research Associate, Department of Biology, McMaster University


  1. Demler C, Lawlor JC, Yelin R, Llivichuzcha-Loja D, Shaulov L, Kim D, Stewart M, Lee F, Schultheiss T, Kurpios N. An atypical basement membrane forms a midline barrier in left-right asymmetric gut development. bioRxiv [Preprint]. 2023 Aug 15:2023.08.15.553395. doi: 10.1101/2023.08.15.553395. PMID: 37645918; PMCID: PMC10461973.

  2. Sanketi BD, Sivakumar A, Kurpios NA. Visualizing and manipulating the production and accumulation of hyaluronan for functional assessment in chicken embryos. STAR Protoc. 2023 Mar 28;4(2):102200. doi: 10.1016/j.xpro.2023.102200. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 36989110; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC10074245.

  3. Demler CC, Kurpios NA. Hyaluronan update: structure, biology and biotechnology. In: Passi A, editor. Extracellular Matrix Biology In Press: Springer Nature; 2022.

  4. Chen FL, Oxford EM, Chou S, Li N, Leach JP, Perry SK, Sanketi BD, Cong C, Kupiec-Weglinski SA, Dubowitz R, Daugherity E, Martin JF, Danko CG, Kurpios NA. The long noncoding RNA Playrr is expressed in sinoatrial node cells and protects against cardiac arrhythmias. bioRxiv. 2022 September. doi: 2022.09.20.508562.

  5. Hu S, Mahadevan A, Elysee IF, Choi J, Souchet NR, Bae GH, Taboada AK, Sanketi B, Duhamel GE, Sevier CS, Tao G, Kurpios NA. The asymmetric Pitx2 gene regulates gut muscular-lacteal development and protects against fatty liver disease. Cell Rep. 2021 Nov 23;37(8):110030. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2021.110030. PubMed PMID: 34818545; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC8650168.

  6. Sanketi BD, Zuela-Sopilniak N, Bundschuh E, Gopal S, Hu S, Long J, Lammerding J, Hopyan S, Kurpios NA. Pitx2 patterns an accelerator-brake mechanical feedback through latent TGFβ to rotate the gut. Science. 2022 Sep 23;377(6613):eabl3921. doi: 10.1126/science.abl3921. Epub 2022 Sep 23. PubMed PMID: 36137018; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC10089252.

  7. Malatos JM, Kurpios NA, Duhamel GE. Small Intestinal Lymphatic Hypoplasia in Three Dogs with Clinical Signs of Protein-losing Enteropathy. J Comp Pathol. 2018 Apr;160:39-49. doi: 10.1016/j.jcpa.2018.02.005. Epub 2018 Apr 4. PubMed PMID: 29729720; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC8350617.

  8. Hu S, Kurpios NA. Coronary Arteries Shake Up Developmental Dogma. Dev Cell. 2018 Dec 17;47(6):680-681. doi: 10.1016/j.devcel.2018.11.044. Review. PubMed PMID: 30562506; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC8273883.

  9. Funk EC, Breen C, Sanketi BD, Kurpios N, McCune A. Changes in Nkx2.1, Sox2, Bmp4, and Bmp16 expression underlying the lung-to-gas bladder evolutionary transition in ray-finned fishes. Evol Dev. 2020 Sep;22(5):384-402. doi: 10.1111/ede.12354. PubMed PMID: 33463017; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC8013215.

  10. Sivakumar A, Mahadevan A, Lauer ME, Narvaez RJ, Ramesh S, Demler CM, Souchet NR, Hascall VC, Midura RJ, Garantziotis S, Frank DB, Kimata K, Kurpios NA. Midgut Laterality Is Driven by Hyaluronan on the Right. Dev Cell. 2018 Sep 10;46(5):533-551.e5. doi: 10.1016/j.devcel.2018.08.002. Epub 2018 Aug 30. PubMed PMID: 30174180; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC6207194.

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Awards and Honors

  • 2012, Robert Hovey Udall Assistant Professorship, Cornell University, College of Veterinary Medicine, Ithaca, NY
  • 2009, Empire Innovation Award Nomination, Dr. J. Appleton, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, James A. Baker Institute for Animal Health, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY.
  • 2008-2009, CU Advance Faculty Development Grant, National Science Foundation
  • 2006-2009, Graduate Rotation Program Instructor, Biological and Biomedical Sciences, Harvard Medical School, Boston
  • 2005, Keystone Symposia Fellowship, Keystone Symposia, Keystone, CO
  • 2002-2005, US Army Medical Research Program, Department of Defence Breast Cancer Research Program, Pre-Doctoral Fellowship, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON.
  • 2003, Carl Freeman Award for Excellence in Research (Doctoral), Department of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON
  • 2002, Carl Freeman Award for Excellence in Research (Masters), Department of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON.
  • 2002, Stem Cell Research Award, Stem Cell Network of Canada, ON