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Discovering molecular genetic mechanisms of central nervous system regeneration

School of Biosciences

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Prof Alicia Hidalgo Applications accepted all year round Awaiting Funding Decision/Possible External Funding

About the Project

Is it possible to promote regeneration of the central nervous system after injury, damage or disease? During normal development, neutrons and glia interact to coordinate the generations of neutrons and glia, and direct cell migration patterns, axonal navigation, dendritic arborisation and the emergence of neural circuits. Neuron-glia interactions ensure that the two interacting cell populations in the CNS - neutrons and glia - are produced in the right numbers to deliver normal behaviour. Perhaps after injury or disease, the CNS is or could be reset to a developmental stage enabling cells to re-do again those functions as they did in early development. Thus, directing neuron-glia interactions might be a way to promote CNS regeneration and repair. This presents however important challenges, such as the fact that cellular distances to be travelled in an adult CNS are much greater than in development, it is unclear where new neurons would emerge from, that newly generated neutrons need to integrate into functional neural circuits to contribute to the recovery of behaviour, and whether time itself constraints the regenerative potential of cells. We are addressing all of these and similar questions to discover how to promote regeneration in the damaged CNS using genetics.

Objective: To investigate the molecular and genetic basis of central nervous system regeneration.

Methods: We will use the fruit-fly Drosophila as a model organism. We will use a combination of genetics, molecular cell biology including CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing technology and transgenesis, microscopy, including laser scanning confocal microscopy and calcium imaging of neuronal activity in time-lapse, computational imaging approaches for analysis of images and movies, stimulating and inhibiting neuronal function in vivo using optogenetics and thermogenetics, and recording and analysing fruit-fly behaviour. Ultimately, the findings from our research will have implications beyond Drosophila, with an impact also in understanding how any brain works, in health, injury or disease, including the human brain.

Funding Notes

Self-funded students are welcome to apply. For EU/UK nationals, please apply via the MIBTP programme. For international applicants, funding opportunities via national scholarships will be explored.
Either way, please contact Prof Alicia Hidalgo directly at : [Email Address Removed]

And please submit an official application online following the link below.


Kato K, Losada-Perez M, Hidalgo A (2018) The gene network underlying the glial regenerative response to central nervous system injury. Developmental Dynamics DOI 10.1002/dvdy.24565

Hidalgo A and Logan A (2017) Go and stop signals for glial regeneration. Current Opinion in Neurobiology 47, 182-187

Losada-Perez, Harrison, Hidalgo (2016) Molecular mechanism of central nervous system repair by the Drosophila NG2 homologue kon-tiki. Journal of Cell Biology 214 (5) 587-601.

Kato K, Forero MG, Fenton JC and Hidalgo A (2011) The glial regenerative response to central nervous system injury is enabled by Pros-Notch and Pros-NFkB feedback. PLoS Biology 9: e1001133
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