The overarching theme of my research addresses how changes in gene expression patterns regulate cell fate choices during central nervous system (CNS) development.
In addition to the regulatory processes that occur during normal development, I am interested in the cell and molecular changes that occur in response to environmental toxins. I am a member of the Society for Neuroscience, the North American Vascular Biology Organization (UND Campus Representative), and the Society for Developmental Biology.
My current research addresses the influence of heterotypic cell-cell interactions during central nervous system development.
My work is designed to test the hypothesis that neurovascular interactions stabilize the vasculature during development and under pathologic conditions.
I am also investigating the role of a traditionally vascular factor, vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) on the regulation of neurogenesis. I am currently conducting these studies using in vitro cell culture approaches and an in vivo system using transgenic mice. An image of nestin (red) and lectin (green) labelled developing cortical neuroepithelium is shown to the right (photo courtesy of Jake Cain).
I also collaborate with Dr. Tristan Darland to investigate the impact of environmental toxins (i.e. cadmium) on the development of the nervous system using the zebrafish as a model organism. The rationale behind these latter investigations is to determine the impact that early, low levels of toxin exposure can have on not only the neural stem cells of the developing system, but also on the ability of the adult system to respond to stress.
In addition, I am a member of the UND Epigenetics and Epigenomics group and am investigating the epigenetic mechanisms that control neural stem cell fate choice and neural-vascular interactions in early mouse cortical development. This work is funded by the COBRE grant on "Epigenetics and Epigenomics of Development and Disease".