The brain is a highly complex organ that contains hundreds of different cell types that originate from neural stem cells. Stem cells have important decisions to make as they develop, such as whether to proliferate or stop proliferating, to die or stay alive, or to become one type of cell rather than another. The cellular and molecular mechanisms that govern these decisions are the basis of normal development and ultimately, the basis of proper nervous system functions.
The Cellular Neurobiology research unit is devoted to studying these mechanisms. Some of his projects are designed to identify and characterize genetic programs that control the production of various cell types in the central nervous system, while other projects aim to identify the molecular processes involved in establishing the polarity of stem cells, an essential property in asymmetrical cell division that produces two different types of daughter cells. This work has important therapeutic implications, since understanding the cellular and molecular mechanisms stem cells use to produce cell diversity in normal development will be helpful in developing strategies for cell therapies to be used in treating various pathologies of the nervous system. Dr. Cayouette’s unit hopes that the knowledge they are acquiring will one day make it possible to manipulate neural stem cells in order to reconstruct different regions of the nervous system that have been damaged due to an injury or a neurodegenerative disease, such as Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease.