Neuro-oncology

Research area:  Stem cell biology

Our research aims to discover the gene regulatory networks controlled by Distal-less transcription factors in the developing brain and link them towards developmental reprogramming of specific children’s brain cancers.

Our laboratory is interested in understanding the molecular mechanisms that control the development and organisation of cells and tissues in the body with a specific focus on the brain and eye. Our work focuses on a highly conserved gene family called Distal-less (Dlx) which is required for normal development and controls target genes that can contribute to children’s cancer growth. Dlx genes encode proteins called transcription factors which act like molecular switches to turn other genes “on” or “off”.

Our aim is to understand the gene regulatory networks that control and are controlled by Dlx genes.

In normal brain development, DLX2 is required for the development of a particular class of neuron called GABAergic interneurons that express the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA. We have recently discovered that DLX2 is important in determining cell fate in the developing brain by promoting GABAergic interneurons and at the same time blocking oligodendroglial progenitor cell (OPC) differentiation to mature oligodendrocytes. OPC cells are an important determinant in the most malignant childhood brain cancer called DMG (Diffuse Midline Glioma), a devastating cancer that is invariably fatal.

We hope to discover the mechanisms that switch DLX on and off to enable us to turn off the OPC differentiation programme in order to find new treatments for DMG. Our research combines advanced genomics technologies, bioinformatic analysis with cell biology and biochemical signalling.

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Professor David Eisenstat
Group Leader and Lead, Cancer Flagship
Available for student supervision