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Seth Blackshaw Ph.D


Telephone Number: 443-287-5609
Fax Number: 410-502-1872
The Solomon H. Snyder Department of Neuroscience
Johns Hopkins University
School of Medicine
725 North Wolfe St.
Baltimore, MD 21205
Room: MRB 329

Molecular basis of neuronal and glial cell fate specification and survival

The vertebrate central nervous system (CNS) is an amazingly complex structure composed of distinct subtypes of neurons and glia.  To identify the molecular mechanisms that regulate cell specification in the CNS, we use the mouse retina and hypothalamus, both of which arise from the ventral embryonic forebrain.  The relatively simple anatomy of the retina provides an excellent system to identify molecular mechanisms that regulate neuronal cell fate.  The hypothalamus, which is a central regulator of behaviors ranging from sleep to feeding to reproduction, offers an opportunity to bring the power of developmental genetics to help unravel the neural circuitry controlling a huge range of experimentally tractable and medically important behaviors.

       In recent years, we have worked to map out the transcriptional regulatory networks controlling the developmental competence of retinal progenitor cells, photoreceptor specification and survival, as well how retinal glia are specified and help promote photoreceptor survival.       In the hypothalamus, we have identified transcription factors that are essential for specification of neural circuitry controlling circadian rhythms and sleep.  We also discovered that tanycytes of the hypothalamic median eminence are a diet-responsive neural progenitor cell population.  Future work will investigate the function of novel candidate regulators of retinal and hypothalamic cell identity, the role of previously uncharacterized hypothalamic cell subtypes in regulating motivated behaviors, and the contribution of tanycyte-derived neurogenesis to the regulation of feeding and body weight.