A Twist of Fate - Generating New Neocortical Neurons
Jean Hébert, Professor, Departments of Neuroscience and Genetics, Albert Einstein College of Medicine
Jean Hébert completed his PhD at the University of California, San Francisco, under the mentorship of Gail Martin where he studied cell-signaling factors that regulate some of the early steps in mammalian development. For these studies, he used embryonic stem cells and mouse genetics. As a postdoctoral fellow in Susan McConnell’s lab at Stanford University, he then focused his attention on how the neocortex, the part of our brains that we use for our highest cognitive and perceptual functions, develops. Continuing along these interests, he currently heads his own research lab at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine where his group has primarily undertaken two lines of investigation.
The first is understanding how a simple sheet of neuroepithelial cells early in embryogenesis develops into the adult neocortex, seat of our consciousness. Conditional genetic approaches in the mouse, whereby candidate genes that regulate neocortex formation are deleted or overexpressed specifically in neural precursor cells, comprise the central method driving these studies.
The second line of investigation aims to establish ways of regenerating the principle neurons of the adult cerebral cortex when these neurons are lost due to trauma or degeneration, including degeneration due to aging. Since endogenous precursors do not replace cortical neurons when they are lost, two strategies are being developed: manipulating these precursors with molecular genetic techniques to start generating neurons and transplanting engineered precursors that are programmed to disperse in the cortex and differentiate into cortical projection neurons.