Development of Spinal Cord Connections That Underlie Movement

Samuel L. Pfaff, Ph.D.
Development of Spinal Cord Connections That Underlie Movement
Probing the Depths: under the Sea and into the Brain

Samuel L. Pfaff Salk Institute

Sam Pfaff
Salk Institute

A serious spinal cord injury is a life-changing experience. It impairs movement and limits sensation and can result in partial or total paralysis, depending on what part of the spine is damaged. At the Salk Institute, we begin by studying how stem cells turn into different types of neurons during early development, including how they form connections between the brain and limbs. We are also searching for ways to generate new neurons to replace those damaged in spinal cord injury. By deciphering how spinal neurons seek out and make connections with other neurons, we hope to learn how to regrow the neural circuits damaged in an injury to the spinal cord.

Our goal is to understand the fundamental principles that control the specification and connectivity of spinal neurons involved in locomotion, particularly motor neurons. Over the long term these studies should provide insight into the basic principles involved in the proper formation of the nervous system, as well as provide practical information for treatments of spinal cord injury and other diseases like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, post polio syndrome, and spinal muscle atrophy. The approaches used in the lab include experiments with genetically modified mice, developmental studies with chicken embryos, and differentiation assays with ES cells. Currently the lab has three areas of investigation: the mechanisms that control gene regulation during neuronal fate specification, the analysis of axon guidance, and studies of the central pattern generator circuitry involved in locomotion.
VIDEO 1. 00:00 – 8:19

VIDEO 2. 8:22 – 25:00

VIDEO 3. 25:05 – 28:43

This entry was posted in Chronic Spinal Cord Injury Research, Gene Therapy, Regenerative Medicine, Spinal Research, Stem Cell Research and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.