Molecular neurobiology


Group Leader

Dario Bonanomi


Armenise harvard

Our laboratory explores the cellular and molecular processes that regulate the crosstalk between neurons and their tissue microenvironment during development of neural circuits and in response to damage. We employ mouse models, transcriptomics, cellular assays, biochemistry, and imaging to study the assembly, homeostasis, and repair of neuronal connectivity in the vertebrate nervous system. We are motivated by a strong interest in fundamental aspects of cell signaling, axon guidance and tissue morphogenesis. At the same time, we seek to leverage this knowledge to open new therapeutic avenues for motor neuron disease and nerve repair.

Research Activity

How neurovascular crosstalk shapes circuit development

Neurons are energy-demanding, as reflected in the expansive vascularization of the nervous system and precise alignment of nerves and blood vessels. What remains unclear is how this neurovascular link is established so that the vascular network matches the functional requirements of specific neuronal populations. We have shown that molecular cues from axons pattern blood vessels to ensure a tight association, yet preventing interference with circuit assembly. Our current interest is on the neurovascular signals that coordinate these complex interactions crucial for the development and maintenance of neuronal connectivity

Unlocking the secrets of nerve regeneration 

Peripheral nerves display a remarkable ability to regenerate after injury but this capacity gradually diminishes with aging or in conditions such as diabetes, and is absent in the central nervous system (CNS; brain and spinal cord). We seek to decipher the rules of peripheral nerve repair and utilize them to promote nerve regeneration. The current focus is on understanding the reparative role of blood vessels in healing injured nerves. We have found that neovessels play a critical role in creating a microenvironment conducive to nerve fiber regrowth, and we are identifying the molecular basis of this repair process.

Motor neuron degeneration from mechanisms to new biomarkers

Motor neurons are susceptible to disease, influenced by both intrinsic factors and features of surrounding cells. Our research investigates changes in cell-cell communication networks and phenotypes within the spinal cord and peripheral nerves of ALS mouse models. In collaboration with clinicians, we relate these changes to alterations in tissues and biofluids from patients, with the goal of uncovering new biomarkers that offer potential paths for diagnostics and therapeutic solutions for motor neuron disease.

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