Samantha's PhD Research
(Technical description in text below; scroll to end for brief and easy-to-understand explanation videos!)
Generation and maintenance of the mammalian brain by 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 also studied 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 strategies, she constructed a hierarchy of these neural stem cells and their progeny that elucidates the intermediate steps between precursors and mature cell types. She then used 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.