Joshua R. Sanes

Harvard University

Election Year: 2002
Primary Section: 24, Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
Secondary Section: 28, Systems Neuroscience
Membership Type: Member

Research Interests

My colleagues and I study the formation of the synapses that interconnect nerve cells, because these are the main sites at which the nervous system processes and (in all likelihood) stores information. One set of studies uses the nerve-muscle synapse to identify the developmentally important signals that the pre- and post-synaptic partners exchange as they form, modify, and maintain their connections. This work, much done in collaboration with the late John Merlie, involves identifying signaling molecules and their receptors using simplified systems, and then testing their roles by targeted gene disruption in mice. A second set of studies explores the issue of synaptic specificity: how growing axons choose the appropriate target cell from among the many neurons they encounter. This work uses the vertebrate visual system, because so much is already known about its adult pattern of connectivity and function. A final set of studies, done in collaboration with Jeff Lichtman, aims to devise novel transgenic methods for visualizing synapse formation and synaptic circuits in live animals over time. By using these methods we are learning how the molecules identified in the first two projects actually exert their cellular effects.

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