Ajay Chitnis and colleagues in the Section on Neural Developmental Dynamics are examining how the posterior lateral line system is built in the zebrafish nervous system. The lateral line is a mechanosensory system that consists of sensory organs called neuromasts, which are distributed in a stereotypic pattern over the surface of the zebrafish. Development of hair cells in the lateral line neuromasts is remarkably similar to that of hair cells in the human ear. Furthermore, the mechanisms that guide migration of the lateral line primordium as it deposits neuromasts under the skin, are remarkably similar to those that determine migration of metastatic cancer cells. The goal of the laboratory is to define the genetic regulatory network that coordinates cell fate and morphogenesis in the lateral line system and to build computational models, based on these studies, to understand how this relatively simple sensory system in zebrafish builds itself.
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