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Welcome! 

The goal of our research is to understand how spinal cord networks control locomotive behavior, such as walking or swimming. More specifically, we are interested in how spinal cord networks are assembled during animal development, how they function, and how they are controlled. 

We use the zebrafish embryo to study these networks because it has several features that make it a great model system. The embryos demonstrate strong swimming behavior, their spinal cords are simple compared to mammalian spinal cords, the embryos are transparent so spinal cord development can be easily observed, and we can use the power of zebrafish genetics to identify genes important for spinal cord function. These features allow us to take an integrated genetic, molecular, cellular, and behavioral approach to study the spinal cord networks that orchestrate locomotive behavior. Since spinal cord organization is broadly conserved among vertebrates, our work provides insight into mammalian spinal cords and establishes new models of human disease. The collage below shows examples of our work.

 

Kinematic analysis of wild-type and mutant embryos Live intact and isolated tail at 18 and 48 hours post-fertilization
Cellular and molecular analysis of the mutant zieharmonika Histochemical stains of acetylcholinesterase activity and hindbrain axon scaffolds
Lateral and cross-sectional views of a Rohon-Beard neuron axon (green) extending past CoPA interneurons (red)Meiotic mapping data for the mutant zieharmonika

 

 

 

 

 
 

Biology Department, University of Massachusetts, 611 N Pleasant St, Amherst, MA, 01003
gbdownes@bio.umass.edu | (413) 545 1266

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