Autonomic Neuron Development
The peripheral autonomic nervous system arises from the neural crest. Our laboratory studies the mechanisms controlling the migration of neural crest cells to and within their target tissues, and the mechanisms controlling the differentiation of neural crest-derived cells. The enteric nervous system (ENS) is the largest division of the autonomic nervous system and is crucial for the control of gastrointestinal motility. Our laboratory studies many aspects of enteric nervous system development, including precursor migration, the differentiation of neurons and glia, opportunities for stem cell therapy, as well as the maintenance of the enteric nervous system in the adult gut.
Project 1: Examining the relationship between the enteric nervous system and the intestinal epithelial stem cell niche
As progenitor cells differentiate into neurons and glia, there are significant changes to their mode of cellular metabolism, which impacts on their fate potentials. For example, in the central nervous system, neurons primarily rely on oxidative phosphorylation for energy, whilst glial cells rely on glycolysis. In this study, you will use different transgenic strains of mice and fluorescent activated cell sorting to isolate individual populations of enteric neurons, enteric glia and progenitor cells. You will then analyse the metabolic profile of each population and how they change during development.
Exercise has been shown to have many beneficial effects for both physical and psychological health, including promoting the proliferation and differentiation of stem cells in the adult hippocampus. In this study, you will examine changes in the enteric nervous system in mice that undergo an exercise regime. Using a new transgenic strain of mice, you will investigate whether there are changes in the proliferation and differentiation of stem cells in the adult enteric nervous system.
Gliomas are a very aggressive form of brain cancer, with a very poor 5-year survival rate. Gliomas arise from over-proliferation of glial cells, the support cells of neurons, in the brain. Glial cells are also a prominent part of the enteric nervous system in the gut. In this project, you will use a novel line of transgenic mice to investigate gene expression patterns between glial cells in the brain and the gut using RNA-sequencing technology and bioinformatic analysis.