Laboratory of Neuronal and Glial Physiology
The major goal of our laboratory is to understand the mechanisms by which neurons and glial cells interact to support normal function of the nervous system, and to develop new strategies for manipulating neuron-glia signaling to promote repair during diseases. Our special interest is related to the cross-talk between neurons and myelinating glia. Myelination of neuronal axons is crucial for all functions of the nervous system as it ensures fast impulse propagation within neuronal networks and precise timing of neuronal signaling. Failure to complete developmental myelination successfully, or damage to myelin during adulthood leads to various diseases (including multiple sclerosis, neurodegenerative and mental disorders) and/or premature death of animals and humans.
Myelination in the central nervous system is performed by oligodendrocytes, which develop from oligodendrocyte precursor cells (OPCs). OPCs are extremely interesting cells because they are the only glial cells that receive true synaptic input from neurons, challenging the dogma that synaptic transmission exists only between neurons. OPCs rapidly react to injuries of the nervous system, but their behaviour can be very different depending on the pathological condition.
In our current and future work, we aim to:
- Determine how different patterns of electrical activity in neurons affect behaviour of OPCs and which molecules mediate the effects of neuronal activity on OPCs;
- Explore new strategies for manipulating the activation status and the functions of OPCs in vivo using gene-therapy, optogenetic or chemogenetic approaches, with a goal to promote neuronal regeneration;
- Develop techniques for studying connectivity between neurons and myelinating cells, and to investigate how neuron-glia connectome is affected during aging and diseases.
Our work relies on whole-cell patch-clamp recordings of neurons and glial cells in brain slices, flash-photolysis of caged compounds, optogenetics, viral gene delivery techniques in brain slices and in vivo, state-of-the-art imaging approaches, bioinformatics, and rodent models of demyelinating and neurodegenerative diseases.