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Brain development requires careful synchronization of gene signals that control cell proliferation, fate-specification and survival. In the absence of such signals, brain functions become impaired and will lead to a lifetime of distress and continual clinical treatments.

Research Focus

Our long term goal: Unravel how the epigenome determines embryonic fate-specification of neurons and glial cells.

Our first research line examines how the epigenome controls FGF8 signaling to fate specify gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) neurons. These neurons control reproduction, and are therefore, critical for fertility. In humans, FGF8 mutations eliminate GnRH signaling which causes congenital hypogonadotropic hypogonadism, a complex reproductive disorder characterized by failed or delayed puberty and infertility.

Our second research topic focuses on unraveling the intracellular mechanisms that facilitate FGF8-dependent glial cell development. These studies are of significance, because abnormal FGF8-dependent glial cell development disrupts callosum fiber guidance and agenesis of the corpus callosum.  


Research techniques: In vitro cell cultures, ex vivo tissue cultures, embryology, Western blot, in situ hybridization, immunohistochemistry, enzyme-linked immune assays, RT-qPCR, ChIP assays, MeDIP, bisulfite DNA sequencing, luciferase assays, RNA-seq and ChIP-seq.

Picture (left to right): Courtney Stewart, Wilson Chung, Megan Linscott, and Marija Tomic. 

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