The interest of my research group concerns the development of the nervous system, with focus on the brain and sensory systems.
Our main research focus is to understand molecular mechanisms that regulate the development and function of the nervous system, with focus on the brain and sensory systems.
At present my research group is interested in four major neural focused projects, and a fifth parallel cancer related project, using a range if model systems.
1) Non-visual opsin related projects:
Opsins are G-coupled receptors that detect light by transforming the energy of a photon into a cellular response. Non-visual opsins, not directly involved in visual image formation, are also expressed outside the retina. We are interested to unravel their function in the nervous system, in particular the brain, olfactory and non-retinal eye structures.
2+3) Eye related projects:
The iris in the eye is a sphincter muscle that regulates the size of the pupil, and thereby controls the amount of incoming light in the eye. We and others have shown that light regulated mechanisms directly in the iris is responsible for a local pupillary light reflex. We are expanding our molecular knowledge regarding how the local iris pupillary light reflex is regulated.
The lens and the retina are two important structures within the eye. We are identifying the molecular actions of different signaling molecules regulating the early generation of lens fiber cells and retina cells, and how these two structures affect the development of each other.
Specific projects related to eye diseases, such as cataract, anolphthalmia and glaucoma are also ongoing.
4) Olfactory related projects:
In the adult mammalian head region there are three regions where neurogenesis normally occurs; in which the olfactory epithelium (giving rise to olfactory receptor neurons) is one of the regions. We are using the olfactory epithelium as a model system to unravel molecular mechanisms regulating the progression from progenitor cells to differentiated neurons.
Moreover, the first post-mitotic neurons in the olfactory epithelium will leave the epithelium by an EMT-like process, including delamination*, and migrate towards the forebrain. We aim to define molecular mechanisms that regulate this event, and what function the migratory olfactory neurons have.
* Delamination is a biological normal process where the basal membrane is degraded to facilitate migration of cells. The delamination process is often reactivated in cancer cells, which results in spreading of cancer cells in the body and formation of secondary tumors.
5) Cancer related projects:
We have recently established a delamination/metastatic assay, the CAM-Delam assay, to visualize, score and quantify the ability of cancer cells to degrade the basal lamina (delamination) and migrate. This model is now used to determine molecular mechanisms regulating EMT related processes like delamination, invasion and micro-metastasis formation. We are using a range of different human cancer cell lines, such as glioblastoma, lung, colon, prostate and breast cancer cell lines, as well as human tumor samples.
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