The goal of the laboratory is to examine the growth, assembly and connectivity of the nervous system during normal development and in disease processes such as cancer and neurodevelopmental disorders. We generate basic science knowledge about normal and abnormal nervous system formation and growth processes and use this information in preclinical models to determine new targets to treat diseases such as cancer.
The mammalian nervous system is composed of billions of neurons that connect to their targets with remarkable precision and order. Such organization underpins the ability of the nervous system to form a diverse array of functioning circuits which allows us to perceive and interact with the world. The neuroanatomical characteristics that underlie this functional organization are initially formed during embryonic development. When nervous system developmental errors occur it can ultimately result in functional disorders. Further, these neurodevelopmental programmes can be abnormally activated in adulthood during disease processes such as cancer.
To achive the goals of the laboratory, the reseach is divided into three interconnected projects (below). We use multidisciplinary approaches and a wide arsenal of experimental tools. This includes mammalian genetics, embryology, preclinical tumor models, in vitro tumor cell models, bioinformatics, live imaging, biochemistry, histology, cell and molecular biology.
Nervous system development
In this reseach how the nervous system is assembled during development is examined. We investigate the molecular, genetic and cellular mechanisms underlying the processes of axon guidance, neural growth and neural migration.
It is known that some neurodevelopmental disorders are inherited as a result of genes that do not function properly during development. We use preclinical models to determine the biological functions of genes associated with heredity of neurodevelopmental disorders to determine how they affect development of the nervous system and how that results in dysfunction.
Nerve-tumor interaction during cancer progression
It has been discovered that nerves in the body can grow into tumors during the course of the disease, a feature, which can influence disease progression. We use preclinical models to investigate this process at the molecular, genetic, cellular and physiological levels.