Axon Growth and Guidance in the Developing and Regenerating Central Nervous System
How do nerve fibres know where to grow and why do they fail to re-grow when the nervous system is damaged?
We are interested in the development and regeneration of the vertebrate central nervous system. We are particularly interested in points of axon decussation in both the visual and corticospinal systems, which are complex decision regions in the midline of the CNS. In development we are concerned with the specification of retinal and cortical neurons to project to specific targets and the guidance cues that enable them to navigate.
The regeneration of axons within the adult CNS is characteristically very poor, especially for projection neurons. However, we have shown that retinal axons will re-navigate their appropriate pathways and re-establish connectivity during a defined time window of late development. At this time the neurons are still capable of transcribing their original growth related genes, and are in a CNS environment that is neither inhibitory, nor has lost the guidance cues essential for correct navigation. We are currently exploring the limits on this response with an aim of promoting CNS nerve regeneration and re-formation of specific connectivity.