Exploring glial roles in sculpting brain development
Dr Vilaiwan Fernandes
University College London
Our brains are composed of two main cell types: neurons and glia. Neurons, the electrically excitable cells that process information, have been studied intensely but glia have been thought of as support cells and are often ignored. I have recently shown that glia play essential roles in instructing brain development. Their dysfunction may therefore underlie or exacerbate many brain pathologies, underscoring the need to understand their normal roles.
We will determine how glia regulate neural development at the cellular and molecular level. Conservation of biological processes enables us to investigate this question in the fruit fly, where we can make use of modern genetic and molecular techniques to ask how signals from glia regulate neuronal production, how glia can be reprogrammed into neurons and how different types of glia differ in their functions during brain development.
Our work will improve our understanding of nervous system regeneration and neurodevelopmental disorders.