The nervous system is composed of a vast number of neuronal cells, which are specialized to transmit and receive information. To accomplish this, neurons generate two distinct kinds of processes called axons and dendrites, which communicate with another and with muscle cells via structures known as synapses. Support cells called glia are important for the appropriate growth and guidance of developing neurons, and for the manufacture of the myelin sheathes that insulate large axons.
Development and maintenance of the nervous system involves signaling initiated by several families of growth factors, as well as selective pruning of mistargeted axons and the programmed death of particular neurons that are overproduced within the embryo. The research program in Cellular Neuroscience seeks to better understand the fundamental mechanisms by which all of these several events are regulated at the cellular level. Investigators are using a variety of contemporary biochemical, molecular, and computer-assisted imaging techniques to elucidate these mechanisms. Efforts are focused on several key areas. Studies on the cytoskeleton of the neuron are a principle strength of the program, and are relevant for understanding the mechanisms of neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's.
These studies focus on the means by which the internal architecture of axons and dendrites is established and maintained. Studies on the pathways by which axons navigate and form neuromuscular junctions are another key focus, and they relate directly to the clinical issues of neuropathies. Finally, we are interested in testing new methods for inhibiting cell division for cancer therapy that will not have adverse effects on the nervous system. All of the research in the program is conducted with the goal of developing new clinical strategies for dealing with diseases such as muscular dystrophy, various forms of dementia, developmental disorders of the nervous system, and cancer.
Cellular Neuroscience Faculty:
Peter Baas, Professor
Timothy Cunningham, Professor
Itzhak Fischer, Professor
Gianluca Gallo, Associate Professor
Ramesh Raghupathi, Associate Professor
Veronica Tom, Assistant Professor
Wenqian Yu, Research Instructor
Ying Jin, Research Assistant Professor