We study fundamental mechanisms of brain development with the ultimate goal of diagnosing and treating neurological disorders. Current research centers on:
Neuronal cell diversity in the cerebral cortex: The six-layered neocortex is an evolutionary invention in mammals. While diverse neuronal cell types have been identified among millions of brain cells, the molecular mechanisms underlying neuronal cell fate and lineage specification remain largely unclear. We are interested in understanding how neurons are generated and specified in the neocortex.
RNA splicing diversity and neural development: Alternative RNA splicing generates remarkable molecular diversity and in extreme cases enables a single gene to produce hundreds of different protein isoforms. What are the roles of mRNA splicing diversity in brain development? Single cell analyses from us and others start to uncover cell type-specific mRNA isoforms, master splicing regulators and their roles in brain formation.
Genetics of neurodevelopmental disorders: The massive expansion of human neocortex is associated with the highest cognitive functions. DNA mutations that affect brain development can cause diseases such as autism and epilepsy. Using genetic and genomic approaches, we aim to understand gene regulation mechanisms in brain development and genetic causes of neurological disorders.
At the University of Chicago, we work closely with labs within the Department of Human Genetics which has unusual strength in population genetics, comparative and functional genomics, and computational biology. We also share strong interests with peer labs in neuroscience, developmental biology, systems and single cell biology.