Neural stem cell grafts have been shown to integrate into sites of spinal cord injury and form synaptic connections with host neurons. However, little is known about the functionality of these connections. The goal of my research is to ascertain if and how signals from host neurons are relayed to targets beyond the lesion site through connections with graft-derived neurons. Utilizing recent advancements in optogenetics, I am optically stimulating and recording from large populations of genetically-defined neurons in both host and graft tissue. These studies will allow us to dissect the circuits that constitute a graft-mediated relay, providing a basis for optimizing grafts for maximum functional benefit.
1. Lu, P., Ceto, S., Wang, Y., Graham, L., Wu, D., Kumamaru, H., Staufenberg, E., and Tuszynski, M. (2017). Prolonged human neural stem cell maturation supports recovery in injured rodent CNS. Journal of Clinical Investigation 129, 3287-3299.