The Niswander lab investigates mouse models of embryonic development to provide insights into fundamental developmental processes, major human birth defects and potential clinical therapies. Her studies over the years have revealed the molecular mechanisms that control the formation of the central and peripheral nervous system, as well as lung, limb, and neuromuscular development. The current focus of the lab is on the common and severe birth defect wherein the neural tube (NT) fails to close resulting in neural tube defects (NTDs) such as spina bifida. Using genetic, molecular, biochemical and cell biological assays they have identified numerous genes involved in NT closure and determined their mechanisms of action. The lab uses time-lapse imaging of the living mammalian embryo to couple molecular insights to the cell behaviors that drive NT closure. Environmental factors influence human NTD risk, and her lab uses mouse models to explore gene-environment interactions.
birth defects, neural tube defects, neural progenitors, human genetics, mouse development