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Our unit is studying vertebrate nervous system development, focusing on the molecular mechanisms that control the transition from neural stem cell to neurons in the developing vertebrate nervous system. We focus on some transcription factors to probe the molecular mechanisms controling neural progenitor maintenance, differentiation, and the generation of neuronal diversity in the developing telencephalon and sensory ganglia. We use for our work the Xenopus embryo, which offers many advantages for in vivo gene function analysis during early embryonic development. Functional assays in Xenopus are complemented by gain- and loss-of-function by electroporation in chick embryos and genetic knockouts in the mouse, to gain fuller understanding of gene action and their normal requirements in the developing embryo. Gaining insight into the mechanisms driving the differentiation of neural stem cells into specific types of neurons will help to understand neurological disorders and to devise novel therapeutic strategies.
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