The development of the mammalian brain is a highly regulated process involving both cell-autonomous and non-cell-autonomous decisions that determine cell fate, proliferation, migration, and death. The genes that govern these critical decisions are often mutated in human neurogenetic conditions. One of the most common of these disorders is neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1).
Using NF1 as a model genetic system to understand normal growth and differentiation in the normal brain, our laboratory aims to characterize the genetic, cellular, and molecular factors that contribute to the development of nervous system tumors (gliomas and neurofibromas) and cognitive problems (learning and attention deficits). Defining these contributing factors represents the first step toward establishing new treatments for children and adults with NF1. Moreover, NF1 provides unique opportunities to unravel the complexities of related medical problems in the general population, including adult and childhood brain tumors, breast cancer, and autism.