RESEARCH EXPERIENCES FOR UNDERGRADUATES FROM RURAL AND TRIBAL COLLEGES
Investigator: Diane Darland, Ph.D.
Location: Department of Biology, University of North Dakota
Project Title: How the brain coms together: neural-vascular interactions in cortex development
Description: Neural-vascular interactions can impact the development of the central nervous system (CNS) as well as the plasticity of neural stem cells (NSC) and developing neurons while the brain is forming. Among the current questions in the brain development field are: (1) how do blood vessels and neurons communicate while the brain is forming?; (2) what factors are involved in regulating these processes?; and (3) is epigenetic regulation of gene expression part of the micro-environmental signaling process in brain formation? Neurogenesis requires the coordinated regulation of NSC proliferation, initiation of differentiation with exit from the cell cycle, and acquisition of differentiated properties associated with a given cellular function (i.e., differentiated neuron). My research lab is interested in investigating the coordinated regulation of heterotypic cell-cell interactions during brain angiogenesis, neurogenesis, and neural differentiation. The primary project involves the use of a tri-culture Transwell™ system consisting of primary brain endothelial cells and myofibroblasts cultured together in capillary-like tubes on one side of a Transwell™ membrane with primary neural precursors cultured on the other side. We are investigating the timing, molecular regulators, and epigenetic mechanisms involved in the NSC fate choice and the neural-vascular interactions. The results of this project will help us to better understand the different cell-cell interactions that occur while the brain is forming, during post injury repair (i.e., stroke), or under pathological stress (neuroinflammation or neurodegeneration).