Associate Professor, Department of Medical Genetics
Cumming School of Medicine
HSC Room 2215
3330 Hospital Drive, NW
Calgary, AB T2N 4N1
We study hypothalamic programs that underlie neonatal/postnatal neuroendocrine signaling. The transition from a passive fetus to an independent neonate requires activation of a complex network of neuroendocrine genes. To understand what genes are critical during this late developmental time point, and if the postnatal age presents a window of vulnerability for environmental insult, we use the following tools:
We address the following overall questions: Do differentiated and primed hypothalamic neurons, including their circuitry, undergo a maturation process during the neonatal/postnatal developmental time points? If so, what genes are critical for this maturation? Finally, does the postnatal time point present a window of vulnerability whereby environmental insults affect genes critical for proper establishment of this circuitry, which may lead to a predisposition to adult endocrine diseases, such as precocious puberty or obesity?
Project 1. To understand how hypothalamic neurons balance neuropeptide cargo levels (‘supply') with the physiologic demands of a newly-born animal, we use a secretory pathway-deficient zebrafish model. Ongoing studies are focused on elucidating the molecular feedback loop that links intracellular supply with transcriptional repression.
Project 2. To identify genes that may be involved in proper establishment of the postnatal hypothalamic circuitry, we use mice and zebrafish genetics to study newly-revealed guidance genes that are highly enriched during this time point.
Project 3. In the near future, we plan to collaborate with Dr Kurrasch's physician colleagues at Alberta Children's Hospital to identify common environmental toxins to which Albertan children are exposed and understand how those toxins might predispose these children to endocrine disorders.