Stem cells have two fundamental properties: self-renewal and multipotency. During development, stem cells and resulting progenitor cells are responsible for generating all the tissues and cells of an organism. In the adult, stem cells exist in many tissues throughout life and may play critical roles in physiological functions and tissue regeneration. The maintenance of their "stemness" state and commitment to differentiation are tightly controlled by both intrinsic genetic and epigenetic programs and extrinsic stimuli.
Neural stem cells in the postnatal brain have significant roles in both normal brain functions, such as learning and memory and the brain’s response to injuries. My laboratory is investigating the mechanisms governing the behaviors and functions of neural stem cells and its implication in neurological diseases and learning disorders.
Epigenetic mechanisms, including DNA methylation, chromatin remodeling, and noncoding RNAs have profound regulatory roles in controlling mammalian gene expression. Disturbance of these interacting systems can lead to inappropriate expression or silencing of genes, causing an array of multi-system disorders. A main focus of my lab research is to understand the epigenetic basis of cell fate specification and neurodevelopment.
Neurodevelopmental disorders are highly heterogeneous constellation of disorders, both in terms of etiology and clinical manifestations. Using neural stem cells as model systems, we are investigating the molecular mechanisms that regulate neuronal development during postnatal period and their implications in human neurodevelopmental disorders such as Rett Syndrome, Autism, and Fragile X syndrome.