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. Knowledge of how the nervous system forms, grows and connects is important for determining the molecular aetiology of neural disorders, neural involvement in cancers and can aid designing strategies to restore function to the damaged nervous system.
The neuroanatomical characteristics that underlie functional organization are initially formed during embryonic development. However, the molecular and cellular mechanisms that determine developmental circuit formation normally and in disease processes remain poorly understood.
We utilize the developing somatosensory system in the spinal cord as a tractable model to study how neural circuits are established during embryonic and postnatal development. The laboratory also focuses on abnormal neural development in developmental and adult onset diseases and diorders. Our focus is to explore the molecular and cellular mechanisms that dictate cell body settling position, axonal trajectory and nerve growth and to examine the consequences of these anatomical choices for neural connectivity and in diseases such as cancer. Our laboratory uses wide range experimental approaches such as mammalian genetics, live imaging, biochemistry, classical embryology, cell and molecular biology.
The work in our group is critical for a general understanding of the developmental circuitry that gives rise to somatosensory perception in animals. The aim is to use this model system to identify fundamental principles in the development of neural connectivity. Moreover, these studies are important in understanding the molecular etiology of nervous system disorders, neural involvement in cancers and is a critical first step for designing strategies to restore function to a damaged nervous system.