The staggering diversity of cell types in the mammalian brain and enteric nervous systems is established by only a handful of different precursor cell types. Our lab wants to understand how cells know or are instructed to become a particular cell type. This involves cataloging and identifying different cell types and their features, learning how they are integrated with each other during development to form a function nervous system, and identifying patterns of gene and gene networks that regulate choices in cell fate.
Neurodegenerative disorders are characterized by the targeted loss of specific cellular populations in the brain. In many cases, different neurodegenerative disorders differ only in the specific neuronal populations or brain regions which are affected. We use single-cell measurements to reconstruct how different neuronal populations respond and succumb to disease-associated variants or conditions. Understanding these processes to learn why different neuronal cell types are selectively vulnerable or spared in neurodegenerative disorders provides insight into potential therapeutic options for these debilitating disorders.