Plasticity in the Developing Nervous System: The development of a functional nervous system not only entails the molecular events that lead to appropriate cell types and patterning, but also the ability to maintain cell identity in the face of ongoing genetic and environmental perturbations that occur throughout embryogenesis. The ability to correct and compensate for disruptive alterations in development is referred to as plasticity or regulative ability. While all cells possess some degree of plasticity in order to adapt to adverse conditions, pronounced plasticity is a key feature of embryogenesis, one that has profound implications for regenerative medicine. Our lab employs the classic amphibian embryological system of Xenopus laevis to examine the molecular basis of plasticity nervous system during early embryogenesis through physical and genetic perturbations.
Calcium Activity in the Developing Nervous System: While the role of calcium is well understood in the mature nervous system, calcium activity is a universal feature of the embryonic nervous system as well. Our lab is investigating the role of this activity in cell fate acquisition, recovery from perturbations, and wound healing.
Polyploidy in an Animal Model: While most plants have polyploid genomes, the vast majority of animals (including humans) are primarily diploid. However the Xenopus genus shows extensive polyploidy. Our lab is interested in understanding how the different homeologs are regulated at the transcriptional level under different conditions. Given that even humans display polyploidy in certain cell types such as liver and heart, Xenopus serves as an excellent model system to understand this complex gene regulation.
In addition, as a Faculty Advisor to the W&M iGEM team, our lab has a strong interest in Synthetic Biology; as an instructor in the Phage Lab (with Mark Forsyth) we are also pursuing various aspects of phage biology, particularly gene expression in phages isolated by W&M students.