The lab has recently published on two areas of stem cell research in neurosciences: on astrocytes, in collaboration Sakiyama-Elbert lab at Wash U, and on reversion of fibroblasts (skin cell factories) to stem cells by control of microRNAs.

Our collaboration supported demonstrations by Dr. Sakiyama-Elbert’s group that the two different subtypes of support cells in the brain–fibrous and protoplasmic astrocytes–secrete different components of extracellular matrix (ECM). ECM is the padding that physically join cells together, guide their movements, and give cells a reference to where they are. These differences correspond to different capacities for neuronal regeneration and sprouting. Their developed methods will not only help to better model neuronal and astrocytic systems, but to model themĀ in unison, and understand the molecular consequences of astrocyte activity.

Dr. Andrew Yoo’s group, meanwhile, investigated major players in turning skin cells back into stem cells–a way to study brain cells of humans without requiring embryonic or fetal stem cells. Two microRNAs–small bits of RNA that match up to other RNA and DNA sequences to control the genetics of a cell–known to be rich in the brain turn out to play a crucial role in rearranging what genes are used in a cell. Turning on these microRNAs causes the cell to default to a pre-neuron state.

You can find both of these papers linked on our publications page. Congrats to Allie, Krissy, Rebecca, and Joe!