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Deborah Kurrasch - University of Calgary. Calgary, AB, CA

Deborah Kurrasch Deborah Kurrasch

Associate Professor, Department of Medical Genetics | University of Calgary

Calgary, AB, CANADA

Kurrasch’s research is focused on genetic programs that govern hypothalamic development using both mice and zebrafish as model organisms.





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Fashion Calgary Portrait Campaign 2015 - Deborah Kurrasch




Deborah M. Kurrasch is an Associate Professor in the Department of Medical Genetics at the University of Calgary and a Scientist at the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute. Dr. Kurrasch’s research is focused neural development using both mice and zebrafish as model organisms. The Kurrasch laboratory is particularly interested in how chemicals in our environment might be affecting normal brain development in utero. Her lab has shown that the exposure to the plasticizer bisphenol A (BPA) and its replacement BPS causes more neurons to be born at the wrong time, thereby potentially leading to inappropriate circuitry formations that may lead to problems later in life such as ADHD. Currently, her lab is exploring potential agents that may block the effects of these chemical during pregnancy and also is now collaborating with clinicians to translate her work into humans.

In addition, her lab has also developed a novel drug screening platform that uses zebrafish seeks to uncover therapies for a variety of CNS disorders. Their lead compound is now starting clinical trials for epilepsy and she is now pivoting her platform to other clinically resistant disorders such as autism. Her work is funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, among other private foundations, and she currently is the Lead PI on a large, multi-center grant funded by Brain Canada.

Dr. Kurrasch received her PhD in Molecular Pharmacology from Purdue University and conducted two postdoctoral fellowships, one at the University of Texas – Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas and one at the University of California – San Francisco. Dr. Kurrasch has received various awards for her scholarly work, and was recently selected to Calgary’s Top 40 Under 40 (2012).

Industry Expertise (3)

Education/Learning Research Pharmaceuticals

Areas of Expertise (11)

Molecular Biology Developmental Biology Pharmacology Neuroscience Genetics Confocal Microscopy In Vivo Scientific Writing Drug Discovery Bisphenol A Bisphenols

Accomplishments (1)

Calgary’s Top 40 Under 40 (professional)


"They are our educators, innovators and entrepreneurs. They rule the C-suite and both the corporate and volunteer boardrooms. Whether in the arts, non-profits, oil and gas, law, finance or medicine, they are doing more and doing it better and faster."

Education (2)

Purdue University: Ph.D., Pharmacology 2002

Purdue University: B.S., Genetics 1996

Affiliations (1)

  • CEO and Co-Founder : Path Therapeutics Inc.

Media Appearances (5)

Effects of BPA Substitutes

The Scientist  


“What the [paper] nicely shows is that not only BPA but a lot of BPA analogs really do have estrogenic activity,” said Deborah Kurrasch, a neuroscientist at the University of Calgary ...

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5 Ways To Store Food Without Plastic

Huffington Post  online


The problem, as outlined by the study, is that "[a] lot of the alternative chemicals have not been adequately tested because they don't have to be," said lead author Deborah Kurrasch ...

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Emerging Picture on Role of EDCs, Microbiome in Obesity, Diabetes

Medscape  online


Dr Kurrasch went on to describe the knowledge base to date on the more than 100 known endocrine-disrupting chemicals, which are believed to interfere with hormone systems, either by mimicking hormones or blocking normal hormonal signaling ...

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Zebrafish study shows bisphenols affect embryonic brain development



In a study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), researchers in Deborah Kurrasch’s lab at the University of Calgary have provided evidence that BPA and BPS cause alterations in brain development leading to hyperactivity in zebrafish ...

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BPA and BPS both lead to hyperactivity in zebrafish, study finds

CBC News  


"I was actually very surprised at our results. This was a very, very, very low dose, so I didn't think using a dose this low could have any effect," said Deborah Kurrasch, a researcher at the university's Cumming School of Medicine and corresponding author on the paper ...

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Event Appearances (5)

Hormone control of neural progenitors during embryonic brain development, and interference by EDCs

Gordon Research Conference on Environmental Endocrine Disruptors  Sunday River, Maine


Development of non-neuronal cells critical for central control of obesity

2016 Obesity Summit  London, UK


The role of microglia in hypothalamic development

Satellite Symposium on Forebrain Development, Canadian Developmental Biology Meeting  Banff, AB


Bisphenol A and its replacement BPS induce precocious neurogenesis and hyperactivity in zebrafish

The International Chemical Congress of Pacific Basin Societies  Honolulu, Hawaii


A zebrafish-based platform to uncover drugs that restore mitochondrial function

Zebrafish for Personalized Medicine Conference  Toronto, ON


Research Grants (5)

Discovery Grant

NSERC $165,000



The Discovery Grants Program supports ongoing programs of research (with long-term goals) rather than a single short-term project or collection of projects.

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Platform Support Grant

Brain Canada $2,953,370



"High-impact research in neuroscience and mental health has always required skill, imagination, determination and insight, and nowadays it also requires access to shared equipment, facilities, services, databases, computing and informatics facilities, patient repositories, and biobanks, collectively referred to as technology 'platforms'."

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Eyes High Postdoctoral Fellowship Competition

University of Calgary $110,000


Program to recruit top-tier postdoctoral fellows, 50 awarded/200 applicants.

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Research Grant

Canadian Institutes of Health Research $615,000



For Molecular Mechanisms Governing Hypothalamic Development and Disease.

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Discovery Grant

NSERC $135,000



For Regulation of Neuropeptidergic Cell Homeostasis.

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Articles (5)

Adverse morphological development in embryonic zebrafish exposed to environmental concentrations of contaminants individually and in mixture Aquatic Toxicology


Exposure to environmental contaminants has been linked to developmental and reproductive abnormalities leading to infertility, spontaneous abortion, reduced number of offspring, and metabolic disorders.

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Shox2 is required for the proper development of the facial motor nucleus and the establishment of the facial nerves BMC Neuroscience


Axons from the visceral motor neurons (vMNs) project from nuclei in the hindbrain to innervate autonomic ganglia and branchial arch-derived muscles. Although much is known about the events that govern specification of somatic motor neurons, the genetic pathways responsible for the development of vMNs are less well characterized.

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Protocadherins and Hypothalamic Development: Do They Play An Unappreciated Role? Journal of Neuroendocrinology


Normal brain development requires coordinated cell movements at precise times. It has long been established that cell–cell adhesion proteins of the cadherin superfamily are involved in the adhesion and sorting of cells during tissue morphogenesis. In the present review, we focus on protocadherins, which form the largest subfamily of the cadherin superfamily and mediate homophilic cell–cell adhesion in the developing brain.

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Mice lacking the transcription factor SHOX2 display impaired cerebellar development and deficits in motor coordination Developmental Biology


Purkinje cells of the developing cerebellum secrete the morphogen sonic hedgehog (SHH), which is required to maintain the proliferative state of granule cell precursors (GCPs) prior to their differentiation and migration to form the internal granule layer (IGL). Despite a wealth of knowledge regarding the function of SHH during cerebellar development, the upstream regulators of Shh expression during this process remain largely unknown. Here we report that the murine short stature homeobox 2 (Shox2) gene is required for normal Shh expression in dorsal-residing Purkinje cells.

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Low-dose exposure to bisphenol A and replacement bisphenol S induces precocious hypothalamic neurogenesis in embryonic zebrafish Proceedings of the National Academy of Science USA


Here we demonstrate that bisphenol A (BPA) exposure during a time point analogous to the second trimester in humans has real and measurable effects on brain development and behavior. Furthermore, our study is the first, to our knowledge, to show that bisphenol S, a replacement used in BPA-free products, equally affects neurodevelopment.

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