Graduate Program Affiliations
• BISI-Molecular and Cellular Biology (MOCB)
• BISI-Physiological Systems (PSYS)
• Neuroscience & Cognitive Science (NACS)
Because of its potential applications in regenerative medicine, one of the ultimate goals of neuroscience is to build a nervous system from scratch. Despite incredible advances over the last decades in identifying the different cell types and subtypes in each brain region ("parts list") and, in mapping the connectivity of the brain ("wiring diagram"), our ability to make functional organoids that contain many cell types is still in its infancy. The overarching goal of our group's research is to tackle two of the main hurdles in this field — the correct generation of parts and their appropriate wiring — by determining, during development, (1) how progenitor cells make decisions to acquire specific neural fates, (2) how these developing neurons make connections with specific postsynaptic partners and (3) which mechanisms are required to coordinate fate and connectivity locally and globally across an entire organ (patterning).
Our research focuses on the retina, because of its physical and experimental accessibility, and the near complete mapping of retinal cell subtypes and connectivity. It also exploits the technical advantages of zebrafish enabling both fast prototyping and deep mechanistical insights. Our ultimate goal is to use this developmental knowledge to establish methods and manipulations capable of directing cellular fate and of guiding rewiring, in the context of regenerative or replacement therapies in neurodegenerations or other conditions characterized by neuronal loss.