Victor Luria Ph.D.
My doctoral training at Columbia University in New York City has been in genetics, neuroscience and biophysics. As a research fellow in Marc Kirschner’s lab at Harvard, I study how neural circuits and genetic circuits change and evolve.
In NEURAL CIRCUITS, I ask two questions:
1. Can circuit function be maintained when motor neurons are lost in aging or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)? When motor neurons die, remaining motor neurons attempt to compensate by sprouting new branches that innervate recently vacated neuromuscular synapses. In collaboration with Jeff Lichtman (Harvard Center for Brain Science), I explore the limits of cellular compensation in motor neurons, focusing on changes of neuronal cell size and metabolic activity.
2. How does circuit wiring control motor behavior? The wiring of sensory-motor circuits that control movement is set up through pathfinding decisions executed by motor neuronal axons that travel to distant body targets. These decisions depend on the internal cytoskeletal dynamics of the axonal growth cone and on external guidance cues. I explore the limits of cellular decision-making using mouse genetics and behavior, mathematical modeling and fluorescence imaging in animals and cells.
In GENETIC CIRCUITS, I ask how are new protein-coding genes born de novo in evolution. I focus on new genes that arise de novo from intergenic sequence and may invent novel protein structures. My initial interest was kindled by studying the ancient orphan protein Apcdd1, which we showed to be a novel Wnt inhibitor and to have a new protein domain. Currently I seek to understand what type of proteins are made by candidate de novo genes in several eukaryotic genomes. Together with my collaborators, I use mathematical modeling, structural bioinformatics and experiments to determine the properties and functions of novel proteins.
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