Our lab is interested in the regulation of normal and abnormal nervous system development, and in determining how understanding these mechanisms may be exploited to stimulate regeneration when cells of the nervous system become injured. Many different types of neurons and glia co-exist throughout the brain, however, and their genesis, at different times in different brain regions, creates a confusing milieu in which to study events that occur early in embryogenesis. To overcome this, most of our discovery research has historically utilized a simple, fascinating and uniquely talented part of the nervous system – the olfactory system.
The olfactory neuroepithelium (OE) is one of the most primitive parts of the nervous system. It contains Olfactory Receptor Neurons (ORNs) which are the only recognized projection neurons capable of successfully replacing themselves and re-targeting their axons from the peripheral to central nervous system in a mature animal. In the last 10 years, our research in the olfactory system has revealed novel types of olfactory stem cells, novel mechanisms used by transplanted olfactory-based glia to mediate spinal cord repair, and different ways we may be able to prevent neuronal death in the developing and injured nervous system. All the research we currently perform looks beyond the olfactory system into the brain and is aimed at understanding (1) Neural stem cell regulation; (2) Glia-based mechanisms of stimulating regeneration and brain repair and (3) How the DNA of cells within our brain becomes increasingly more specialized as we stimulate our brain (epigenetic regulation of brain development and function).
The Lab is split into 3 research groups focused on each of these questions, whose interests become more intertwined the deeper we probe into some of the intrinsic mechanisms common to each.