April 19, 2014

Friday Evening Lecture Series – “Deconstructing the Complexity of Vertebrate Limb and Spinal Cord Regeneration”

Date(s) - 07/06/2012
8:00 pm - 10:00 pm
Lillie Auditorium

Friday Evening Lecture Series – “Deconstructing the Complexity of Vertebrate Limb and Spinal Cord Regeneration”
Elly M. Tanaka, Center for Regenerative Therapies, Technische Universität Dresden
July 6, 2012, 8:00 PM, Lillie Auditorium

Introduction by Alejandro Sánchez Alvarado

Elly TanakaLecture Abstract:
The ability of salamanders to regenerate a complete limb or tail after cutting anywhere along their length has fascinated biologists for centuries. Yet the complex make-up of the mature tissue and the wound response as the starting point, have posed daunting challenges to satisfactorily understanding the cell and molecular biology of these phenomena. Regeneration occurs by transforming the adult tissue into a zone of proliferating progenitors called the blastema. Which cells form the blastema, their potency, and how injury signals induce blastema formation have remained challenges to this day. Using a breedable species of salamander (Ambystoma mexicanum), commonly call the axolotl, we have combined transgenic technologies with live imaging of specific cell types during regeneration to define the cells that form the limb and tail blastema, their fate, and the cell behaviors involved in become a regenerative cell. In addition we have defined injury-associated signals that stimulate cells to start the regeneration process.

Dr. Elly Tanaka is Professor of Animal Models of Regeneration at the Technical University of Dresden, DFG Research Center for Regenerative Therapies.  She is also an associate principle investigator of the Eurosystems Consortium.    Dr. Tanaka is internationally recognized for her work rejuvenating the study of regeneration biology. By developing molecular genetics and imaging techniques in the salamander, Ambystoma mexicanum, she has defined the stem cells that undertake limb regeneration and their potency. She has also performed clonal studies of the neural stem cells responsible for spinal cord regeneration and has identified the molecular pathways triggered by injury that induce their self-renewal and their regenerative phenotype. More recently she has begun applying this knowledge toward directing the morphogenesis and differentiation of mouse and human neural stem cells.  Dr. Tanaka received an A.B. from Harvard University and a Ph.D. from the University of California at San Francisco where she studied with with Marc W. Kirshner.  As a post-doctoral fellow at the Ludwig Cancer Research Institute at the University College, London, she started her studies on salamander limb regeneration and established molecular techniques to study serum factors that induce cell cycle re-entry of regenerative salamander cells. Upon taking up a junior group leader position at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, Dresden in 1999, she initiated live imaging and molecular genetics approaches to studying spinal cord and limb regeneration. Dr. Tanaka’s honors include the Biofutures Award from the German Federal Ministry of Biotechnology and Research (2003), as well as a European Research Council Advanced Investigator Award (2011).

Dr. Alejandro Sánchez Alvarado will introduce Dr. Tanaka.  Dr. Sánchez Alvarado is an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Stowers Institute for Medical Research and is co-director of the MBL Embryology course. The goal of his laboratory is to identify and characterize the molecular components underpinning regeneration using the freshwater planarian Schmidtea mediterranea. Dr. Sánchez Alvarado received his bachelor’s degree in 1986 from Vanderbilt University and his Ph.D. in 1992 from the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, and was formerly a staff associate at Carnegie Institution of Washington, Department of Embryology and H.A. and Edna Benning Professor of Neurobiology and Anatomy at the University of Utah School of Medicine. He has been on the faculty of the MBL Embryology Course since 2004, and is a 1995 alumnus of the course. He has received numerous awards, honors, and fellowships, including the Ellison Medical Foundation Senior Scholar Award, a MERIT Award from NIH/NIGMS; and a National Academy of Sciences Kavli Fellowship. He is a member of numerous scientific and editorial boards, and has authored more than 50 scientific articles and book chapters, and two patent applications.