Microglia May be My Favorite Cells, but Astrocytes are a Close Second

This week during our morning meetings, each person in this year’s BSURF cohort gave an 8ish minute presentation about their research project, called a Chalk Talk. It is what it sounds like – no prepared visuals other than those you can draw on the board, making what you say and how you say it even more instrumental in the coherence of the talk. Hearing about everyone’s research was super cool, and one that stuck out to me was by Sophie, who spoke about her work relating to astrocytes and the CTNND2 gene.

This summer Sophie is working as part of the Eroglu lab, which does similar work to Staci Bilbo’s lab, which I am a part of this summer. So, it was really cool to hear about a peer diving in to a similar field of research. In her talk, Sophie stressed the importance of astrocyte cells: the most abundant glial cells in the mammalian brain as being critical regulators of brain development and physiology through their interactions with synapses and neuronal communication. Microglia (which I am looking in to this summer) and astrocytes are often considered together as instrumental cells in the brain for immune function and synapse regulation. As she has mentioned in her previous blog posts, Sophie is working with the CTNND2 gene and its role in production of the delta-catenin protein. Previously thought to exist only in neurons, this protein has recently been identified in astrocytes as well! This is really interesting, and poses the question of how alterations in this gene, and subsequently this protein, affect astrocyte cell adherence and general function.

I thought Sophie’s talk was very well structured: she spoke clearly, eloquently and her visuals (of astrocytes, her knock down CTNND2 paradigm, and synapses) were clearly well thought out. Because her research is so closely related to mine, I’m especially interested in the results of her work and the relation of CTNND2 in the ACC, a region of the brain heavily implicated in autism, and the brain focus of my project. The world of neurogenetics has taken us both by storm, working our brain’s to figure out how our brains work.


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