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We are interested in the early development of the brain and specifically how embryonic neural tissue acquires more complex organisation and function. Our particular interest is directed towards the development of the thalamus. We recently assigned a new organising function to the transverse Zona Limitans Intrathalamica boundary and termed it therefore as the mid-diencephalic organiser (MDO). This region expresses several important signalling molecules, including those of the Hedgehog and Wnt families. Through the release of these signaling factors, the MDO orchestrates the development of the thalamus.
Secreted morphogens such as Shh and Wnt proteins are thought to spread through target tissues such as the thalamus and form long-range concentration gradients providing positional information. Recently we could show that Wnt signalling is important for the formation of the MDO, for compartition of the caudal forebrain and for neurogenesis in the thalamus. We want to understand how Wnt proteins are transported through a vertebrate tissue over hundreds of micrometers, and how transport mechanisms are linked to generation of an effective gradient.
Advanced cell cutlture systems
To date we have some understanding of the signalling pathways required for induction and regionalisation of the vertebrate brain, however, we are far from mimic this intricate process in vitro. In the complex environment of the intact embryo it is often too difficult to decipher the influence of multiple signals acting in a spatially and temporally controlled manner. Furthermore, advanced cell culture methods to generate such a tissue in vitro are lacking. Our goal is to develop a method to engineer a complex neuroepithelium in vitro.