The brain is composed of billions of neurons that form a complex network. Inappropriate wiring of these neuronal connections has serious consequences for the sensory, motor and cognitive functions of the nervous system. Dr. Charron’s research focuses on neural development and associated pathologies. He is a leader in Sonic hedgehog (Shh) signaling, having identified an axon pathfinding role for Shh and characterized a novel, non-canonical Shh signaling pathway. He has also characterized novel Shh receptors, a discovery that has fundamental implications for many pathologies, such as pediatric brain tumors.
During embryonic development, neurons extend axons, which are guided to their target via attractive and repulsive guidance molecules. We have demonstrated that Shh acts as a chemoattractive molecule for the axons of certain neurons in the spinal cord. One of Dr. Charron’s objectives is to identify and characterize the components of the Shh signalling pathway in axonal guidance. In addition to helping us understand the immense complexity underlying the wiring of the nervous system, this work will help to identify novel strategies to promote the proper guidance and rewiring of axons damaged by neurodegenerative diseases and brain or spinal cord injuries.
Shh is a multi-functional protein and, in addition to guiding axons, it is also a morphogen which stimulates the proliferation of granule cell precursors in the cerebellum. Abnormal regulation of Shh signaling in the cerebellum leads to medulloblastoma, a pediatric cancer of the brain that is the most common solid tumor in children. Dr. Charron’s research focuses on understanding how medulloblastoma forms, in particular which genes may promote or inhibit medulloblastoma tumorigenesis. This work may lead to the development of novel and more effective targeted therapies to treat medulloblastoma, and improve the survival and quality of life of affected patients.
Affiliations of the Laboratory:
McGill UniversityDepartment of Medicine, Division of Experimental MedicineDepartment of BiologyDepartment of Anatomy and Cell BiologyIntegrated Program in NeuroscienceProgram in Neuroengineering
Université de MontréalDepartment of MedicineProgram in Molecular BiologyCentre of Excellence in Neuromics of Université de Montréal (CENUM)
Find out more about us on the NeuroTree!