Our group investigates how cellular interactions regulate the formation of new myelin.
Most of our axons are eventually ensheathed with myelin, the multilayered plasma membrane made by oligodendrocytes in the central nervous system (CNS). Myelin provides structural, functional, and metabolic support to axons. Failure of myelination and damage to myelin impair axonal transmission and lead to neurodegeneration, evident in developmental and degenerative disorders such as periventricular white matter injury and multiple sclerosis (MS), respectively. New myelin is made through differentiation of resident oligodendrocyte precursor cells during both development and regeneration. We want to elucidate what controls the behaviour of these cells during normal myelination and after damage to the myelin sheath.
Our primary model organism is the zebrafish. Zebrafish develop rapidly and outside the mother, which makes them easily accessible for genetic manipulation. Moreover, the small size and optical transparency of young zebrafish allow for high-resolution in vivo live imaging. Together, these features enable us to dissect cellular interactions between neurons, glia and non-neural cell types, and to investigate the molecular control of these interactions. With this approach, we aim to better understand how cells communicate and influence one another in order to build and maintain a functional myelinated CNS.