The Neuromuscular Junction Acetylcholine Receptors (Red), Synaptic Vesicles (Green), Axoplasm (Blue)
A neuron growing on a patterned substrate
We use a variety tools and techniques to discover molecules needed to maintain and repair synapses. In most of our experiments, we use imaging techniques to examine structural changes at synapses. We then use cell culture, biochemical and genetic tools to discover molecules that drive changes at synapses. Techniques routinely used in the lab include:
1- Live and static imaging of cells and synapses using confocal and epifluorescence microscopy.
2- Analysis of neurons and muscles in cultures.
3- Isolation of ribosomes from subsets of neurons for transcriptome analysis
1 – Running wheels: to determine the pattern and level of activity in mice.
2- Rotarod testing: to test the sensorimotor system of animals.
3- Water Maze: tests a variety of neuronal systems, including the motor system and the hippocampus.
We have developed a bioinformatics platform, EvoCor, to more efficiently and cheaply identify genes that function together. Using this platform and a known gene, we can generate a list of candidate genes to validate their expression and function in the lab. EvoCor: http://pilot-hmm.vbi.vt.edu
James Dittmar is the lead author of a recently published paper in the journal NAR describing the implementation of EvoCor.