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Upstate study featured on cover of The Journal of Neuroscience

Upstate study featured on cover of The Journal of Neuroscience

Findings from the NIH-funded study provide insight into how a signaling molecule called Reelin coordinates the growth and wiring of the developing brain and may help explain why patients who have mutations in the RELN gene have profound intellectual disability and epilepsy. The RELN gene provides the code that produce Reelin.

The study is being conducted in the laboratory of Eric Olson, Ph.D., co-author of the paper and associate professor of neuroscience and physiology. The paper’s lead author, Ryan S. O’Dell, Ph.D., recently received his PhD at Upstate, working in Olson’s laboratory, and is completing his medical degree through Upstate’s M.D./Ph.D. program.

Since publication, Olson says that he has received positive feedback from colleagues at Upstate and other institutions, as far away as Germany.
“Having a cover article makes a little noise in the field and can be a bit of an excuse for catching up with colleagues,” says Olson. “There is so much high-quality science produced these days that any recognition is great and will make a difference, especially for Ryan as he progresses in his career as clinician scientist, and for the laboratory as we extend these results and seek additional funding.”

At such an early stage in his career, O’Dell has already co-authored six published papers and his work has been cited in 28 publications.

“I am truly excited to not only be a part of this work, but to be featured on the Journal of Neuroscience cover,” says O’Dell. Using multiphoton live imaging and thereby direct visualization, we provide novel documentation of the dynamic properties of the developing neurite arbor in an ex vivo environment, and elucidate the role of a specific protein (Reelin) in these dynamic interactions during early cortical development. It has been an absolute pleasure to work with Dr. Olson over the past four years, as he exemplifies the passion, tenacity, and dedication I feel are necessary to pursue a future career in research.”

To conduct their study, the researchers used multiphoton microscopes to directly image the embryonic mouse nervous system and observe developing neurons in their native environment, both in embryos that included a deficiency of the Reelin molecule and in normal mouse embryos.

“This comparison allowed us to hone in on the specific differences in cellular dynamics in the two conditions,” said Olson. “We discovered that a deficiency in Reelin disrupted the stability of part of the cortical neuron that receives signals from other neurons, a part called the dendrite.”

David A. Cameron, Ph.D., formerly assistant professor of neuroscience and physiology at Upstate, and Warren R. Zipfel, Ph.D., of the Biomedical Engineering Department at Cornell University, were study co-investigators.

“We are appreciative of the support that our co-investigators, colleagues, the NIH and Upstate have provided for this project,” said Olson. “We are optimistic that our findings will yield more insights into the signals that shape the developing brain.”

Olson says that although this work is basic in nature, understanding of molecules that can shape neural architecture may have future therapeutic value.

Caption: A paper by Eric Olson Ph.D, left, and Ryan S.O'Dell, Ph.D, studying the cellular and molecular processes of cerebral cortex development--the brain’s outer layer of neural tissue--is featured on a recent cover of the July 29 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience.