Much of Dr. Ashley-Koch's work focuses on disorders of a neurological or psychiatric nature. She is examining the genetic, epigenetic and environmental contributions to neural tube defects (NTDs). One of the NTD projects is examining the potential connection between fumonisin exposure and the occurrence of NTDs in Guatemala. She also co-directs the largest genetic study of anencephaly world-wide. Another interest is the genetic etiology of Chiari type I malformation (CMI), with or without syringomyelia, a condition often misdiagnosed because of the clinical presentation. The CMI team is using cranial morphology measurements and gene expression profiles to help identify clinically and genetically homogeneous subsets of CMI patients. Dr. Ashley-Koch is involved in the genetic dissection of several psychiatric genetic conditions, including autism, ADHD, bipolar disorder, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
A long-standing interest has been the identification of genetic modifiers for sickle cell disease (SCD). Despite the commonality of the sickle cell mutation, there is a wide range of clinical severity in the disease presentation and her group is identifying the genetic risk factors for these complications. Her group utilizes in vivo zebrafish models to evaluate the functional significance of genetic risk factors for SCD nephropathy.
Dr. Ashley-Koch participates in several large, collaborative efforts, including the genetic contributions to birth defects through the Duke Taskforce for Neonatal Genomics, as well as risk for primary open angle glaucoma and the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium.
Dr. Ashley-Koch’s lab takes a variety of molecular approaches to dissect these diseases, including next generation sequencing technologies, epigenetic methods, genomewide SNP analyses and candidate gene mutation analysis. Dr. Ashley-Koch is also interested in statistical methods development to reduce dimensionality and to identify underlying substructure in genetic data sets. She does this in collaboration with Dr. David Dunson in the Duke Statistics Department.
Dr. Ashley-Koch’s administrative efforts include serving as Director of Graduate Studies for the Duke University Program in Genetics and Genomics, and previously as Chair of the Scientific and Education Advisory Board for the Chiari & Syringomyelia Foundation, Inc.