Sunday, May 8, 2011

"Intelligence Alone is Insufficient"

Moving to New York was the best decision in my life.
I have fond memories of myself as once-perpetually-lonely Floridian anonymously roaming the NYC streets; losing my thoughts happily to day-dream snapshots of other peoples lives while also gaining calm confidence in my independence. Admittedly, this hardening city did take its toll on me at times (The aggressive noisy crowds, miles of monstrous architecture, millions of people 'better apt' for your dreams, and heartbreak) but it functioned to solidify myself in myself. I've spent five years yearning that my future be the present but in four short months I'll be on the road to obtaining my Ph.D.
I must admit I have cold feet.
My love of science and research is probably the only thing in my life that was derived solely from an un-mappable original spot in my body -not from the combination of my parents genes or my particular combination of gene's activity from nurture . (Don't get me wrong, I wanted to do everything and my parents fostered every whim completely). I don't know if anyone, sharing similar genes or not, believed I was going to be a scientist so I kept quiet.
Well, that is, until I came to Columbia University in 2008 and now I will not shut up.

Today's paper: The bHLH factor Olig3 coordinates the specification of dorsal neurons in the spinal cord from/by Thomas Müller1,3, Katrin Anlag2,3, Hendrik Wildner1, Stefan Britsch1, Mathias Treier2,4, and Carmen Birchmeier1,5.

Will not be discussed...Yet!
I have made myself ridiculously busy with my own project, planning grad school, applying for random opportunities, etc.etc...I've also come to realize I need a break from time to time. Anyways, I plan to be back to my normal science blabber soon but for now you can read my first draft of an abstract for our department's retreat.


The somatosensory system mediates the perception of touch, temperature, pain, vision and limb position and is essential for sensory regulation of movement. Information from the periphery is transmitted, via primary sensory afferents, to the dorsal horn of the spinal cord where second order sensory projection interneurons relay information via ascending tracts to nuclei in the brain and to other spinal locales. Although much is known about the mature anatomical and physiological organization of the spinal somatosensory system it remains unclear how these complex circuits develop. During mammalian embryogenesis, dorsal spinal neurons arise in the dorsal neural tube from a precursor pool exposed to spatially and temporally restricted signaling cues. From three exclusive bHLH-expressing progenitor domains (Math1, Ngn1, and Mash1) six classes of dorsal interneurons (dI1-6) are produced and are distinguished from each other through differential expression of transcription factors. dIs migrate within the developing dorsal horn and extend axons into contralateral or ipsilateral spinal tracts and eventually populate the entire dorsal horn. To understand the links between early neuronal identity and the subsequent neuronal positioning, axonal trajectory and acquisition of somatosensory modality we are studying the development of one subset, the Math1 derived neuronal population (dI1), using a combination of standard and inducible transgenic mouse lines. dI1 neurons differentiate closest to the roof plate, express Lhx2 and Lhx9 (LIM-HD transcription factors), and migrate to deep dorsal horn where they extend axons either contralaterally or ipsilaterally. The choice to project contralaterally or ipsilaterally is a fundamental decision faced by all projection neurons in the CNS. Studies to date have focused on the regulation of commissural neuron development and there is little information regarding the genesis and function of the ipsilateral population. To understand the basis of ipsilateral character and choice we have generated conditional reporter mouse lines in which dI1 populations can be selectively and permanently labeled at distinct developmental time points. We are using this fate mapping system in conjunction with peri/postnatal retrograde labeling of brain regions to explore the mechanisms underlying the segregation of the ipsilaterally projecting (dI1i) population and their functional importance to the adult sensory pathways. Characterization of these processes may result in novel targets and/or designs to aid regenerative therapies following stroke or spinal cord injury.