Samantha's PhD Research

(Technical description in text below; scroll to end for brief and easy-to-understand explanation videos!) 

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Generation and maintenance of the mammalian brain by stem cells.
 

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

The van der Kooy 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 collaborators in Dr. Cindi Morshead's lab, they have found that these early primitive neural stem cells persist throughout development and into the adult brain. Samantha and her lab mates published that these primitive neural stem cells comprise a relatively quiescent population that can act as a reserve pool of stem cells in the adult brain, and how these cells can be specifically targeted for activation, which may be useful in cases of injury or disease.

Samantha's current research project aims to study the direct progeny of primitive neural stem cells and the other more common GFAP-expressing neural stem cell population using at the single cell level. Using clonal lineage tracing stragies, she has constructed a hierarchy of these neural stem cells and their progeny that elucidates the intermediate steps between precursors and mature cell types. She is now using single cell transcriptomics to better characterize these cells at the molecular level and answer fundamental questions about the gene expression profile of progenitor cells as their fate is specified.

Samantha consistently attends and presents 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 Samantha can study lineage specification of sister progenitor 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 Samantha can study lineage specification of sister progenitor cells downstream of stem cells.

 

Prefer Videos to Text?

Samantha's research on adult stem cells:

Samantha describes one of her PhD research projects in 60 seconds!

Samantha's research on pre-natal brain development from stem and progenitor cells:

Samantha was a finalist in the 3 Minute Thesis competition at the University of Toronto in 2017. Here is her presentation, which was also livestreamed to Instagram.