Mike Bate pioneered the study of nervous system development, working with insect larvae to map cell lineages and understand the molecular controls that guide the wiring plan. His work with insect models has answered fundamental questions about how neural circuits form, and how patterns of development are related to control of movement in the adult.
Mike was the first to identify ‘pioneer neurons’ in the grasshopper — sensory cells that send axons to the central nervous system, which other axons subsequently follow. Switching from the grasshopper to the fruit fly Drosophila, he established that both follow a common pattern of neuronal development.
This foundation led to work with colleagues experienced in Drosophila genetics who discovered a catalogue of genes and proteins that growing neurons use to find their way. Mike has since explored how muscle progenitor cells become muscles, and how motor nerves form connections with muscles to control coordinated movement.