Weekly Seminar Highlights: “Sculpting Neuronal Connections”

Published June 15, 2014

On March 27, the Burke Medical Research Institute welcomed Marc Tessier-Lavigne, Ph.D., President of The Rockefeller University, to deliver BMRI’s Weekly Seminar. 

Dr. Tessier-Lavigne’s laboratory studies the molecular signals that direct the formation of neural circuits in the brain during embryonic development.  His laboratory also studies nerve cell responses to injury and the mechanisms underlying nerve cell death, with the goal of developing therapies for brain injury and neurodegenerative disease. 

In his seminar, Dr. Tessier-Lavigne discussed how the billions of neurons in the brain are wired into precise patterns through complex processes of axon guidance and pruning.  Axon guidance underlies wiring and miswiring during embryonic development as well regeneration after injury. Dr. Tessier-Lavigne’s laboratory has studied the many attractive and repulsive molecules (including Slit, Robo, Netrin-1, NELL2) involved in long-range axon guidance.  The trajectory of axon growth is divided into a series of short segments and guidance cues switch from attraction to repulsion as the axons move towards and then away from intermediate targets. 

Dr. Tessier-Lavigne also discussed his laboratory’s investigations of axonal pruning, whereby unnecessary axonal connections are selectively eliminated.  Among the regulators of axonal pruning is the Death Receptor 6 pathway, which activates a self-destruction program in neurons.  The mechanisms of axonal pruning are essential for brain plasticity in adults and may be involved in neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.  

Dr. Tessier-Lavigne will be a recipient of the 2014 Burke Award, which honors those who have made significant contributions to the field of rehabilitation.  The Burke Award Dinner will be held on Thursday, June 26th, 2014 at the Ritz-Carlton, Westchester in the White Plains, NY.

Since 2003, the BMRI Weekly Seminar has invited renowned scientists from across the country to share their research with the Burke community.  Seminar speakers also have the opportunity to meet one-on-one with the BMRI investigators.  Check out upcoming speakers here

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