Stem cells are the building blocks of our bodies. Over the last 20 years one of the landmarks events in neuroscience was the discovery of neural stem cells in the mammalian brain. My lab works to understand the fundamental biology as it relates to neural stem cells. For example, what are the factors that determine whether a cell will proliferate or turn into a differentiated cell type? What factors regulate the behaviour of stem cells and their progeny through development and into old age? How can we get resident stem cells in the brain to contribute to brain repair after injury or in neural degenerative disease? Through an understanding of the molecules and factors that activate stem cells, promote their survival and form specific cell types, scientists will be in an ideal position to apply this knowledge to repair injured, human tissue.
My group works primarily on neural stem cell biology, throughout development and into the aging brain, with the goal of treating of stroke, acquired brain injury (including cerebral palsy) and spinal cord injury. We use culture techniques and animal models to examine the fundamental biology of stem cells and develop pre-clinical models to examine the potential of stem cell based therapies to promote neural repair and functional recovery. We employ cell transplantation paradigms as well as activation strategies to induce stem cells residing in the nervous system to promote self-repair. Towards this goal we are creating tools to promote stem cell migration to sites of injury. Through collaborative efforts with scientists and clinician scientists, our goal is to treat neurodegenerative and injury states in the central nervous system. The understanding of how biophysical and biochemical cues in the cells’ surrounding regulate cell fate and differentiation can be harnessed for the development of novel approaches to modulate stem cell behaviors, leading eventually to their clinical utilization.