Developmental Genetics: neural cell formation, proliferation and differentiation.
ULB Neuroscience Institute
Université libre de Bruxelles
Bellefroid, Eric J.
Who we are and what we do : Our unit is studying early vertebrate development, focusing on the molecular mechanisms that control neural cell formation, proliferation and differentiation. We use for our work the Xenopus embryo, which offers many advantages for in vivo gene function analysis during early embryonic development (egg and embryo production on demand, which are accessible and of optimal size for embryological manipulations, microinjection and transgenesis). Functional assays in Xenopus are complemented by gain- and loss-of-function by electroporation in chick embryos and genetic knockouts in the mouse, to gain fuller understanding of gene action and their normal requirements in the developing embryo. Gaining insight into the mechanisms driving the differentiation of neural stem cells into specific types of neurons and glial cells will help to understand neurological disorders and to devise strategies to replace lost cells in neurological diseases. Major ongoing research is on cerebral cortex development and spinal cord neurogenesis. Our current research focuses on the role of histone methyltransferases of the Prdm family in spinal cord neurogenesis and of DMRT transcription factors in forebrain and midbrain development.