Undergraduate Research & Scholarships

Jennifer Su Rose Hills

Growth Factor Effects on REgulation of Neural Precursor Cell Development

Contrary to previous dogma that we are born with all the brain cells well ever have, adult neurogenesis continues to occur in the central nervous system of mammals, including humans. Neural precursor cells (NPCs) proliferate and differentiate into new neurons, astrocytes, and oligodendrocytes in response to the input from their cellular environment, termed the neurogenic niche. This niche contains astrocytes, cells that are essential players in neuronal development, synaptic physiology, and stem cell regulation. It has been discovered that the introduction of chronic stress and stress hormones, glucocorticoids (GC), cause decreases in the proliferation and neuronal fates of NPCs. We observe that GCs induce changes of expression of certain molecules, including bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs) which stimulate increases in astrocytic differentiation and noggin a BMP antagonist that promotes increases in neuron formation. Thus, my project investigates the ways that changing BMP expression affects NPC behavior through astrocyte signaling in vitro. In particular, do stress-induced increases in astrocyte BMP secretion contribute to the reduction of neuronal fates in NPCs?

Message To Sponsor

I am grateful to SURF/Rose Hills for giving me this amazing opportunity to fully dedicate myself towards pursuing science. This project has allowed me the chance to witness the fascinating aspect of brain stem cell plasticity and appreciate the elegance of scientific research. I am excited by the prospect of contributing to the dissection of the vast network of pathways involved in neurogenesis, and independently exploring this under the guidance of a supportive lab environment. I thank SURF, Daniela Kaufer (my mentor), and David Covarrubias for all their support and for this rewarding experience.
Major: Molecular and Cell Biology
Mentor: Daniela Kaufer, Integrative Biology
Sponsor: Rose Hills Foundation
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