Department of Pediatrics and Human Development
College of Human Medicine

Division of Genetic and Epigenetic Toxicology, Human Adult Stem Cell Biology and Oncology (Basic Research)

James E. Trosko, PhD, with visiting studentsSince 1968, Dr. Trosko initiated this research program to integrate the genetic and environmental factors that can influence human development. Given the charge by Dr. William Weil, the first chairperson of the Department of Human Development (now the Department of Pediatrics and Human Development) and our first dean of the College of Human Medicine, the late Dr. Andrew Hunt, Dr. Trosko has built a team of basic scientists who tackle many health-related problems that currently consists of Drs. James E. Trosko, B.V. Madhukar and Brad Upham.

Initial studies of the group involved the role of DNA damage and repair of genetically-predisposed human syndromes, such as Xeroderma pigmentosum, Cockayne, Down, and Bloom syndromes and other genetic diseases, together with the development of in vitro assays to measure DNA damage, repair and mutations. Later, the investigative team, Trosko/Chang/ Madhukar and their research associates/graduate students discovered that non-mutagenic agents, growth factors, hormones, food components, cytokines, pollutants, drugs, pesticides may promote cell growth by blocking gap junctional intercellular communication and function as tumor promoters or cause chronic diseases.

Later, this group, together with a more recent addition to this team, Dr. Brad Upham, identified tumor-promoting compounds in cigarette smoke and discovered dietary chemopreventive agents, such as antioxidants in red wines, vegetables and fruits. Dr. Upham has also been instrumental in expanding the program into more in-depth studies of molecular mechanisms of toxicology and oxidative stress, bioengineering projects to develop nano- and micro-sensors, and environmental engineering projects for the remediation of environmental toxicants.

Later, in their attempt to identify the origin of cancer, Drs. Chang/Trosko and their research associates developed approaches to isolate normal adult human stem cells starting from 1987. These adult human stem cells developed and characterized by this team include kidney, breast epithelial, pancreatic, liver, gastric and mesenchymal stem cells. Many US patents have been acquired and many papers published in peer-reviewed journals, especially the demonstration that breast epithelial stem cells are the target cells for breast cancer tumorigenesis and chemoprevention. This group also provided strong evidence for the stem cell theory of carcinogenesis. Because of their scientific experience, technical skills and international reputation, each member of this team has trained faculty within the Department/ University and have collaborated in many international projects, including the study of the atomic bomb survivors in Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the Radiation Effects Research Foundation & the University of Nagasaki; The National Institute of Health Sciences in Tokyo, Japan; the Chulabhorn Research Institute, Bangkok, Thailand; The Oncology Institute, University of Palermo, Sicily. More recently, because of the pioneering work of this group, human adult stem cell research has been initiated and actively pursued at the Kaohsiung Medical University, Taiwan and Seoul National University, Korea.

They have carried this over to setting excellence standards for their undergraduate, graduate students, medical and veterinary students, postdoctoral fellows and visiting scholars from all over the world. Most of the graduates of this team have gone on to distinguished careers in science and medicine, such as Dr. Thomas Glover, Professor of Human Genetics, who received the distinguished faculty Achievement Award at the University of Michigan; Dr. Stephen Warren, the founding and current Chairman of the Department of Human Genetics at Emory University, Atlanta, GA, and the President of the American Society of Human Genetics (2006-07); Dr. Kyung Sun Kang, Professor of Veterinary Public Health, Seoul National University; Dr. Howard Brody, MSU’s first clinical “bioethicist.” Members of this team (Trosko and Chang) have been early disciples of Dr. Van R. Potter, the person who coined the term, “Bioethics.”


  • James E. Trosko, PhD, University Distinguished Professor
  • Chia-Cheng Chang, PhD, Professor (professor emeritus)
  • Rachel Fisher, MBBS, PhD, Professor
  • Karen Friderici, PhD, Professor
    (joint appointment with Microbiology and Molecular Genetics)
  • B.V. Mahdukar, PhD, Associate Professor
  • Brian C. Schutte, PhD, Associate Professor
    (joint appointment with Microbiology and Molecular Genetics)
  • Brad Upham, PhD, Assistant Professor