Current Research and Scholarly Interests
Our laboratory is interested in understanding how the diverse neuronal cell types are generated and maintained in the nervous system. We are taking a combined molecular, cellular, genetic, and genomic approach in the model organisms Drosophila and mouse. To study how neuronal diversity is generated, we focus on investigating the mechanisms of asymmetric division of neural stem cell that balances the self-renewal and differentiation potentials of neural stem cells. Of particular interest to us is the mechanism by which aberrant regulation of neural stem cell asymmetric division leads to brain tumor-like phenotypes. To study how neurons are properly maintained after they are integrated into neural networks, we are creating neurodegenerative phenotypes in Drosophila similar to that observed in Alzheimers and Parkinsons diseases in humans. We are employing the power of fly genetics to identify genetic modifiers that can suppress or enhance these disease phenotypes. Given the unanticipated high level conservation of signaling pathways, regulatory mechanisms, and physiological processes between flies and mammals, our research promises to provide insights into fundamental mechanisms that control the generation and maintenance of neuronal diversity in humans.