Sexy glia: developmental plasticity during glia-derived neurogenesis

Year of award: 2017


  • Dr Richard Poole

    University College London

Project summary

Animals are composed of many different types of cell, each with their own function. In certain circumstances, cells with one function can switch to become cells with a different function. For example, adult newts can regenerate their limbs and this requires nearby cells to switch function and produce the cell types that make up a limb. These cell-type switches can also be observed in our brains. In a few tiny regions of the adult brain, new neurons can be generated from glial cells, the other main cell type in the brain, during learning or in response to brain trauma. Harnessing this cell plasticity has enormous therapeutic potential.

We want to understand how glia-to-neuron switches occur. Conservation of biological processes allows us to study these phenomena in the nematode worm C. elegans, a simple genetic model system.

Mechanistic insights into these cell-function switches in the nervous system may, in the future, allow us to regenerate large regions of the brain or to produce neurons in the laboratory to replace those that are lost in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.