My PhD Research

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Generation and maintenance of the mammalian brain by stem cells.
 

My PhD research in Dr. Derek van der Kooy's Neurobiology Research Group investigates some of the first cells of the brain - neural stem cells.

Our lab previously categorized a novel type of neural stem cell called the primitive neural stem cell that arises by default from mouse embryonic stem cells in vitro or can be derived from pre-neurulation stages of the developing mouse embryo. Alongside our collaborators in Dr. Cindi Morshead's lab, we have found that these early primitive neural stem cells persist throughout development and into the adult brain, where they comprise a relatively quiescent population. Primitive neural stem cells act as a reserve pool of stem cells in the adult brain, and we recently published how these cells can be specifically targeted for activation, which may be useful in cases of injury or disease.

My current project aims to study the direct progeny of primitive neural stem cells and the other more common GFAP-expressing neural stem cell population using clonal lineage tracing strategies. I have constructed a hierarchy of neural stem cells and their progeny that elucidates the intermediate steps between precursors and mature cell types.

I consistently attend and present this research at annual ISSCR, SfN, and Till & McCulloch Meetings.

Brain cells made in a dish from mouse brain stem cells. Neurons (white), astrocytes (peach) and their nuclei (blue). The green cells represent a clone of closely related cells, so I can study lineage relationships of cells downstream of stem cells.

Brain cells made in a dish from mouse brain stem cells. Neurons (white), astrocytes (peach) and their nuclei (blue). The green cells represent a clone of closely related cells, so I can study lineage relationships of cells downstream of stem cells.

 

I made this video describing part of my PhD research for the PitchFest competition hosted by a local organization, the Ontario Institute of Regenerative Medicine. As 1 of 4 winners of this competition, I will have the opportunity to collaborate with a professional film team in October 2017 to create a custom video describing my research for a public audience.