Scheme: University Research Fellowship
Organisation: University of Cambridge
Dates: Oct 2008-Sep 2010
Summary: I study how different nerve cells (neurons) are made in the spinal cord, which is the part of the Central Nervous System (CNS) that runs down the back inside the vertebral column. The spinal cord controls body movements and receives sensory information such as pain, heat and touch from the trunk and limbs and sends that information to the brain. This is why people who have damaged spinal cords are often paralysed.
I study how different regulatory genes instruct cells in a growing embryo to make particular types of neurons. My long-term goal is to determine how all of the different spinal cord neuronal circuits develop and function. To understand how this happens we need to know how different types of spinal cord neurons are made, how these cells then connect up with and communicate with each other and what their functions are in particular behaviours. The understanding that we gain from this research will ultimately help us to develop better treatments for nervous system diseases and disorders as well as methods for facilitating the repair or replacement of particular nerves and neuronal circuits after injury or neurodegeneration.
The evidence so far, suggests that the (cell size, shape and functional characteristics of different neurons are programmed, at least in part, by the specific genes that are turned on by these cells. The most important genes in this process are regulatory genes that encode for transcription factors (transcription factors are proteins that regulate whether specific genes are turned on or off in particular cells). Therefore, I am investigating which regulatory genes are turned on in specific interneurons and what the roles of these genes are in determining the functional characteristics of these neurons. This research is crucial if we are to understand the genetic programme that regulates the development and functions of neuronal circuitry.
Dates: Jan 2004-Sep 2008
Summary: This project summary is not available for publication.