Lucy Liaw


  •  University of Arizona, 1989, B.S.
  •  University of Washington, 1994, Ph.D.


Lucy Liaw has been a research scientist at Maine Medical Center since 1998. She attended University of Washington, receiving her PhD in Biological Structure/Pathology in 1994 in the area of vascular biology. Her postdoctoral work was in the Dept. Cell Biology at Vanderbilt University, where she studied mouse genetics and cancer biology. She spent one year in the Division of Cardiology at Vanderbilt following her postdoctoral fellowship before joining the faculty at Maine Medical Center. She has academic appointments at UMaine Orono, Tufts University Medical Center, and Univ. Southern Maine. The Liaw laboratory focuses on cardiovascular disease and the impact of obesity and metabolic disease. To study signaling mechanisms, we study cells of the vessel wall (smooth muscle cells, endothelial cells) and the vascular microenvironment (perivascular adipose tissue). We use a variety of cell and molecular approaches, mouse models, and human clinical disease specimens to understand molecular characteristics of disease. In addition, Lucy Liaw is the Director of Research Training Programs at Maine Medical Center Research Institute, and oversees our high school, undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral training activities. She has extensive experience in peer review at the National Institutes of Health and as a volunteer and advocate for the American Heart Association. As the Principal Investigator of the Center of Biomedical Research Excellence in Mesenchymal and Neural Regulation of Metabolic Networks, she is involved in thematic growth of research in metabolic health at Maine Medical Center via the mentorship of junior investigators and promotion of scientific technologies. In the 2018-2019 academic year, the Liaw lab is comprised of Joshua Boucher PhD (Staff Scientist), Larisa Ryzhova MD, PhD (Scientific Manager), Anne Harrington BS (Technology Manager of the Mouse Transgenic Facility), Terry Henderson BS (Research Associate, microCT and MRI imaging facility), Jessica Davis-Knowlton MS (Tufts PhD candidate), Chenhao Yang MRes (UMaine Graduate Student), Jackie Turner BA (Research Assistant), Samantha White BA (research intern), Bethany Fortier BS (intern), and Kimberly Malka MD, PhD (vascular surgeon).

Research Interests

In healthy individuals, perivascular adipose tissue (PVAT) plays a protective role in cardiovascular health by producing factors that suppress inflammation and promote vasodilation. During obesity, however, PVAT expands and loses its vasoprotective activity. Our laboratory goal is to understand adipocyte/vascular interactions at the molecular level by defining the relationship of PVAT to blood vessels under normal conditions and in metabolic disease. This is important because obesity and cardiovascular disease have a high rate of co-occurrence, which is due to multiple molecular and cellular mechanisms. Conversely, we know that dietary interventions that increase cardiovascular health and increase lifespan, such as calorie restriction, also affect the phenotype of PVAT, and increase its thermogenic capacity while reducing lipid accumulation. Using mouse models and dietary modification to either promote obesity or decrease weight gain, we are defining the changes in PVAT that support a disease-susceptible or disease-resistant microenvironment. Parallel studies using human adipose and vascular tissues will help us uncover translational, clinically relevant mechanisms related to human cardiovascular disease.

I also direct the the Mouse Transgenic and In Vivo Imaging Core Facility at Maine Medical Center Research Institute, which is a resource for the generation of transgenic and gene-targeted models. This service allows investigators to submit transgenes of interest for pronuclear injection to obtain transgenic animals, or target specific genes in embryonic stem cells. Other resources available through this Core Facility are cryoprotection of mouse lines, re-derivation, embryo staging and collection, and maintenance of shared strains for investigator use. The Small Animal Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) component of the facility is run by my colleague Ilka Pinz, Ph.D. We also have capacity for dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA), high resolution ultrasound, and microcomputed tomography (microCT) as part of our imaging services.

Education and Training Interests

My philosophy is that research training of undergraduate, predoctoral, and postdoctoral scientists is an integral component of a successful laboratory. I am an active member of the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at UMaine Orono, and represent Maine Medical Center Research Institute (MMCRI) on the steering committee. I also serve as the Director of Research Training Programs at MMCRI, and hold responsibility for postdoctoral fellow and student advising. I serve as a faculty representative for MMCRI’s Research Fellow Association, which works to promote the research training and career advancement of our graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. I also participate in teaching graduate level courses and mentorship for fellowship applications.

Selected Publications

  • Urs S, Henderson T, Le P, Rosen CJ, Liaw L. Tissue specific expression of Sprouty1 in mice protects against high fat diet induced fat accumulation, bone loss, and metabolic dysfunction. Br J Nutrition 2012, 6:1-9.
  • Tang Y, Bai H, Urs S, Wang Z, Liaw L. Notch1 activation in embryonic VE-cadherin populations selectively blocks hematopoietic stem cell generation and fetal liver hematopoiesis. Transgenic Res 2013, 22:403-410
  • Boucher JM, Harrington A, Rostama B, Lindner V, Liaw L. A receptor-specific function for Notch2 in mediating vascular smooth muscle cell growth arrest through p27kip1. Circ Res 2013, 113:975-985.
  • Stohn JP, Wang Q, Siviski ME, Kennedy K, Jin YR, Kacer D, DeMambro V, Liaw L, Vary CP, Rosen CJ, Prudovsky I, Lindner V. Cthrc1 controls adipose tissue formation, body composition, and physical activity. Obesity 2015, 23:1633-1642.
  • Rostama B, Turner JE, Seavey GT, Norton CR, Gridley T, Vary CPH, Liaw L. DLL4/Notch1 and BMP9 interdependent signaling induces human endothelial cell quiescence via P27KIP1 and thrombospondin-1. Arter Thromb Vasc Biol 2015, 35(12):2626-2637. PMID: 26471266
  • Liaw L, Prudovsky I, Koza RA, Anunciado-Koza RV, Siviski ME, Lindner V, Friesel RE, Rosen CJ, Baker PR, Simons B, Vary CP. Lipid profiling of in vitro cell models of adipogenic differentiation: relationships with mouse adipose tissues. J Cell Biochem 2016 117:182-193.
  • Bishop KA, Harrington A, Kouranova E, Weinstein EJ, Rosen CJ, Cui X, Liaw L. CRISPR/Cas9 mediated insertion of loxP sites in the mouse Dock7 gene provides an effective alternative to use of targeted embryonic stem cells. G3: Genes, Genomes, Genetics 2016, 6:2051-2061.
  • Liaw L, Freedman JE, Becker LB, Mehta NN, Liscum L. Peer review practices for evaluating biomedical research grants: a scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Circ Res 2017, 121(4):e9-e19
  • Davis-Knowlton J, Turner JE, Turner A, Damian-Loring S, Hagler N, Henderson T, Emery IF, Duarte CW, Vary CPH, Eldrup-Jorgensen J, Liaw L. Characterization of smooth muscle cells from human atherosclerotic lesions and their responses to Notch signaling. Laboratory Investigation 2018, in press.
  • Peterson SM, Turner JE, Harrington A, Davis-Knowlton J, Lindner V, Gridley T, Vary CPH, Liaw L. Notch2 and proteomic signatures in mouse neointimal lesion formation. Arterio Thromb Vasc Biol 2018, 38(7):1576-1593
  • Boucher JM, Robich M, Scott SS, Yang X, Ryzhova L, Turner JE, Pinz I, Liaw L. Rab27a regulates human perivascular adipose progenitor cell differentiation. Cardiovascular Drugs and Therapy: PVAT Biology 2018, 32(5):519-530.

Dissertation Students

Chenhao Yang