Q1: How do NSCs transit from a quiescent to a mitotically active state?
As in mammals, Drosophila postembryonic NSCs transit from quiescence to a mitotically active state to generate adult brain neurons and glia. The mechanisms underlying NSC mitotic reactivation remain largely unknown. We are screening and characterising the role of genes involved in this process using Drosophila, and aim at investigating conserved functions in mammalian systems.
Q2: How is the identity of different NSCs established?
It is becoming increasingly clear that the developing and adult mammalian brain harbours distinct NSC types. Yet, information about their molecular identity is currently at its infancy. The identification of different NSC types in the Drosophila larval brain, the evolutionary conservation of regulatory mechanisms, and the genetic tools available prompted us to use Drosophila as a model to identify novel NSC type-specific molecular properties that may be conserved in mammals.
Q3: What are the key mechanisms responsible for the transformation of normal NSC lineage cells into brain tumour-initiation cells?
Cells with NSC-like characteristics exist within brain tumours and can reform whole tumour masses. These so-called brain cancer stem cells are thought to originate from de-differentiation and/or transformation of normal NSC lineage cells. Using a Drosophila brain tumour model, we are screening and characterising genes potentially involved in molecular changes leading to brain tumour initiation and growth. We also use mammalian systems, including human cell cultures and tissues to investigate the role of conserved identified signals.
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