Connie Cepko, PhD
Bullard Professor of Genetics and Neuroscience
Harvard Medical School
Retinal cell fate determination, and the development of new tools to regulate biological acitivites
Abstract: The diversity and number of cell types that one finds in the central nervous system of vertebrates provokes many questions regarding the mechanisms used to generate them. To tackle this question, we have focused on the vertebrate retina. It serves both as a model of a complex CNS tissue, as well as an interesting tissue that is crucial to vision. One approach we have used is to probe the nature of the mitotic progenitor cells, while another is to learn about the gene regulatory networks that lead to the final cell fate decisions. We use single cell RNAseq of developing and mature tissue, high throughput enhancer analyses, and functional perturbations of developing cells. As well, we have been developing new methods that employ nanobodies to regulate biological activities only in specific cell types.
Bio: Dr. Cepko is the Bullard Professor of Genetics and Neuroscience at Harvard Medical School and an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. She received her PhD degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, working with Phillip Sharp, and remained at MIT as a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Richard Mulligan, where she was involved in the development of retrovirus-mediated gene transduction. Her current research is focused on the development of the central nervous system, with an emphasis on the retina. Her laboratory has also been working to develop gene therapy for prolonging vision in genetic forms of blindness, in developing viral vectors for tracing neuronal circuitry, and in developing new tools based upon nanobodies for manipulation of specific cell types.