Research Interests

Temporal Behavior of Neural Stem Cells

The complexity of central nervous system is predominantly attributed by the highly diverse neuron types derived from a confined number of neural stem cells. During the course of neurogenesis, each distinct neural stem cell gives rise to a distinct set of diverse neurons. The neurons sequentially derived from a given neural stem cell are collectively called a neuronal lineage. To learn the developmental processes and molecular signatures of distinct neural stem cells, Drosophila melanogaster is an excellent in vivo model system. Using Drosophilia genetics, several mosaic labeling techniques capable of marking specific neural stem cells as well as their progeny have been invented to serve the purposes. However, there are limitations in terms of the specificity of neuronal lineages labeled and the efficiency of lineages that can be examined in one set of experiment. To circumvent these limitations, we determine to design and build a new series of lineage-oriented genetic tools. These newly developed tools and the innovative mosaic labeling approach will allow us to perform the “targeted” lineage(s) analysis in great efficiency. Concurrent systematic characterization of every single neurons produced from multiple targeted neuronal lineages will be feasible, expediting our understanding the lineage-orchestrated Drosophila brain.

Brain Aging and Neuronal Contribution to Animal Lifespan

Aging is a process in which the physiology of organisms gradually deteriorates along the course of lifespan. However, it is still under constantly debate that whether aging is a regulated process. At present, several theories of aging include damages in DNA genome, mitochondria dysfunction, decline in metabolic activity, loss of proteostasis, stem cell exhaustion, and cellular senescence. Particularly, many of the hypotheses have been experimentally demonstrated to alter lifespan expectancy either positively or negatively in distinct model systems. Moreover, several aging-related genes/mechanisms have been identified, such as the INS/IGF-signaling (IIS-) pathways and TOR-related pathways. In the lab, we use the Drosophila model organism to study the following three big questions: (1) markers of brain aging, (2) machinery/mechanism of brain aging, and (3) neuronal regulation of aging. Related to the brain aging study, we are also interested in finding the causes of age-dependent neurodegeneration and the pathological progression of TBI (traumatic brain injury)-dependent neurodegeneration. Ultimately, we aim to identify and characterize factors (i.e., cellualr factors and chemical agents) that exhibit neuroprotective capability