Brain Growth and Regeneration
One of the most psychologically and physically devastating injuries for humans is one involving the BRAIN. The brain is our most precious entity Ð it is what defines each of us as unique individuals. Unfortunately the brain is not particularly adept at repairing itself. Unlike the skin that either heals naturally from lesions or can be repaired with skin grafts, the brain has a limited ability to do so and brain grafts, as yet, have not proven to be a practical solution.
Thankfully there is one region of the nervous system - the olfactory system (the neurons that we smell with) - that is unique in its ability to regenerate. These neurons are dying all the time and are being replaced with stem cells that reside in the nose. These neurons then regenerate their connections with the brain to ensure our sense of smell is maintained throughout life. If we could harness this unique regenerative power of the olfactory system and apply it to other regions of the brain then we would have exciting and new opportunities in therapies for brain injury.
My lab is studying the olfactory system during GROWTH and REGENERATION in order to understand the underlying cell and molecular mechanisms that could be applied to BRAIN repair.
Being able to regenerate the brain is just one part of the story. As in the design of computers or telephone services, the wiring of the BRAIN during GROWTH and REGENERATION needs to be very precise. My lab is therefore studying the cell and molecular mechanisms of brain wiring during growth and regeneration. For this research we turn to animal models with simple wiring patterns, the zebrafish and Xenopus frog. Our goal here is to understand the 3-dimensional arrangement of cues used in the construction of the brain circuitry and to use this information to assist in the repair of regenerating circuits.