My basic research focuses on gene and growth factor regulation of neurogenesis during brain development, using cell and animal models of neurodevelopmental disorders, including autism, schizophrenia and environmental teratogens. We have defined mechanisms by which growth factors, toxicants and therapeutic drugs affect proliferation, survival and fate of stem cells from cerebral cortex, hippocampus and cerebellum in culture and in vivo. We are defining roles of autism-associated gene, Engrailed-2, in cerebellar/ hindbrain development; secondary effects on forebrain structure and function; drug rescue of deficits; as well as schizophrenia related microRNAs in corticogenesis. Moreover, our current studies are creating human neurons from lymphocyte-derived induced pluripotent stem cells of children with autism, and identifying the neurobiological signatures of the disease. Other studies focus on neuroimmune and placenta-based disease mechanisms. This new era of exploring neuropsychiatric conditions in human neurons and placenta may provide more relevant cellular and molecular pathways on which to target therapeutic interventions, that may be “personalized” to the needs of the specific individual.
Clinical or Educational Responsibilities
I conduct a Child Neurology clinic each Friday at the Child Health Institute in New Brunswick where I provide specialty consultation while training RWJMS medical students as well as Pediatric and Neurology residents.