Martin Ignacio Garcia-Castro
Associate Professor of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology
Neural crest stem cells are a migratory cell population that generates many derivatives, including peripheral neurons and glia, endocrine cells, heart valves, melanocytes, and most of the craniofacial bone and cartilage. Therefore, neural crest cells are at the root of vertebrate development and are involved in health complications, ranging from brain tumors to craniofacial and cardiac malformations. Our goal is to understand the principles that govern the formation and regulate the differentiation potential of neural crest stem cells. We focus on “early events” responsible for their formation, and the transcription factors, partners, regulators, and target molecules, dictating neural crest stem cell development. We combine traditional and up-to-date methodologies to discover, monitor, and modify gene expression during neural crest development in vivo and in vitro. We use chick, mouse and rabbit embryos along with hESC-derived hNC to understand and investigate human neural crest stem cell biology.