My lab is interested in studying Neural crest cells, glial cells and the evolution of both.
Neural crest cells are a stem cell population that migrates from the neural tube early in development. They migrate extensively throughout the embryo and form many structures of the head, peripheral nervous system, thyroid gland, etc., giving rise to sensory and sympathetic ganglia, heart regions, glia, head bones, teeth, muscle cells, sensory organs, melanocytes and other cell types.The neural crest is interesting because of its unique origin, development and differentiation. These cells are initially part of the dorsal neural tube, with a clear epithelial character; later, they transform into actively motile mesenchymal cells. All these changes are very similar to the one that occurs during CANCER metastasis. Thus, neural crest cells make an excellent model cell to study metastasis, migration and cell fate determination in an embryonic stem cell population.
The nervous system is comprised of neurons and glial cells. Much is known about neurons, their evolution and development. However, glial cells still remain elusive material due partly to their varied definitions they are assigned. These can be as simple as the one referring to them as the “non-neuronal cells” in the nervous system and as complex as the “cells that support and maintain neurons”. Despite this lack of clarity of what the true defining elements of glial cells are, there is no question regarding their importance in the nervous system. They are responsible for a wide range of fundamental functions: from providing anatomical and nutritional support to critical ones such as myelination and scaffolding paths in corticogenesis.