Faculty and Research Highlights from 2012
In 2013, Jonathan Gitlin, Senior Scientist, joined the Bell Center as Acting Director, replacing Joshua Hamilton who was serving in this capacity in 2012. Gitlin maintains a joint appointment in the Cellular Dynamics Program. He is interested in the interplay of the environment and the genome in early human development and his research utilizes zebrafish as a model for understanding human disease, environmental adaptation and evolutionary biodiversity.
The Horb lab studies the mechanisms of pancreas development and differentiation in Xenopus laevis and this past year has identified new genes involved in promoting transdifferentiation of liver to pancreatic beta cells, identified a role for an RNA binding protein Staufen 2 in mediating patterning of the anterior endoderm, and examined the role of BrunoL1, an RNA binding protein regeneration of pancreatic cells.
Drew Latimer is a developmental biologist and Track II Assistant Research Scientist in the laboratory of Dr. Jonathan Gitlin, which uses zebrafish embryos as a model to study the biology of copper. He is primarily interested in understanding how copper and copper dependent proteins function during embryonic development, with a specific view towards determining how copper deficiency affects brain development.
The Jeffrey lab is interested in the regeneration of the oral siphon (mouth) of Ciona, a genus of Cionidea sea squirts. In this past year his lab has discovered that it is possible to replicate the entire regeneration process in a tissue culture dish, found that siphon regeneration is arrested in the oldest animals of a natural Ciona population, and discovered a molecular mechanism involved in oral siphon regeneration involving the Notch signaling pathway.
The Messerli lab studies the physical and physiological controls that organize and polarize cells during development, repair and regeneration and this past year has designed and implemented a simple device for selection, isolation, and accurate positioning of single cells in three dimensions, identified a novel role for the TRPV1 calcium channel is cell migration, and demonstrated a role for the zinc transporter ZIP12 in zinc homeostasis in the mouse and frog nervous systems.
The Morgan lab is currently utilizing the sea lamprey as a model organism for spinal cord regeneration following injury and has discovered that synuclein accumulates after injury and modulates neuronal survival such that reducing synuclein accumulation may be a useful mechanism to increase regeneration after spinal cord injury. Her work holds great promise for the development of novel approaches for affected patients.
The Smith lab is interested in defining the gene regulatory networks that control embryonic pattern formation and in this past year has developed novel functional comparative genomic approaches to identify regulatory pathways essential for body plan organization and regeneration, and initiated studies to elucidate the stem cell signaling network in the sea urchin.
The Tamm lab is exploring the mechanisms of coordination and control of ciliary motion utilizing the Ctenophora or comb jellies. In this past year his work has provided a morphological foundation for histological, cellular, and molecular analysis of ciliary regeneration in ctenophores. He has also examined regeneration of comb plates in comparison to normal development of these structures in post-larval and adult stages of different types of ctenophores to define the unique mechanisms underlying both processes.
After complete damage to their spinal cords, mammalian vertebrates do not regain function below the wound site. In contrast, after an equivalent injury, non-mammalian vertebrates (e.g., fish and amphibians) are capable of recovery. What is the neuronal basis of this recovery?