Developmental Neurobiology

Dr. Lom's laboratory investigates how unconnected, individual neurons wire themselves together into a precisely interconnected and functional nervous system. Specifically, her lab studies how growth factors and intracellular signaling systems direct dendritic arborization and axon navigation in retinal ganglion cells (RGCs). RGCs are the only neurons that connect the retina to the brain, and thus must form precise synaptic connections in order for an animal to process visual information. RGC cell bodies and dendrites reside in the retina, while their axons follow a stereotypic pathway through the brain to innervate their target neurons in midbrain. Thus, RGCs are exposed to growth factors at their origin, along the pathway of axonal extension, and at their syaptic target region. Xenopus laevis tadpoles provide a uniquely accessible system in which neuronal growth can be observed in vivo. The tadpole visual system is particularly amenable to undergraduate research projects because the visual system develops in a simple, well characterized, rapid, and stereotyped fashion. Growth factor levels can be easily manipulated in vivo by microinjecting exogenous growth factors, antibodies, and/or signaling drugs at the retina and optic tectum. Students can rapidly learn techniques such as microsurgery, microinjection, fluorescence microscopy, time-lapse microscopy, morphometric analysis, immunostaining, in vivo transfection, and/or primary culture of retinal neurons. Students in Dr. Lom's lab investigate the roles of growth factors, receptors, neural activity, or intracellular signaling cascades on RGC dendritic arborization and axonal navigation.

You can find out more about this research at Dr. Lom's website.

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