Neurogenesis is the process of new neuron generation through the differentiation of neural stem/progenitors cells. Though the majority of neurons that comprise the mammalian brain are generated during embryonic neurogenesis, research has shown that some neurogenesis persists throughout life in restricted regions of the adult mammalian brain. Namely, active neurogenesis occurs throughout life in the Subventricular Zone of the lateral ventricle and in the Subgranular Zone of the Dentate Gyrus in the hippocampus. Adult neurogenesis may influence learning and memory but also be an intrinsic compensatory response to self-repair the adult nervous system. It therefore follows that understanding the mechanisms controlling neurogenesis may have potential implications for therapeutic development.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small non-coding single-strand RNA molecules that are rapidly emerging as a new layer of regulation of virtually all biological pathways, including neurogenesis. Found in a wide variety of organisms, they have been shown to exert their fundamental function(s) by regulating the stability and translation of the majority (>60%) of mRNAs (targets). Interestingly, the majority of known miRNAs are expressed specifically or enriched in the nervous system, and they have been so far involved in neuronal differentiation, physiology and survival. Despite the vast majority of miRNAs and targets still await experimental validation, rapidly accumulating evidence indicate crucial role(s) of miRNA-guided gene expression controls in developmental and cellular processes of the nervous system, in a number of neurodevelopmental disorders, and holds a great therapeutic potential.
Research of my group focuses on the role of miRNAs and other noncoding RNAs in neurogenesis (embryonic and adult) and circadian biology in rodents. Our long term goal is develop novel RNA-based drugs for brain therapy. Our projects might have the potential to develop radically new approaches for brain therapy and repair.