Kulesa Scores NIH Grant to Study Neural Crest Cell Migration

Stowers Director of Imaging Paul Kulesa, PhD, has received a two-year grant from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development of the National Institutes of Health to study how microenvironmental signals sculpt cells into distinct migratory streams.

Cranial neural crest cells must travel from their neural tube origin to target locations in the developing head where they give rise to bone, cartilage, neurons, and glia. In order for facial structures to form in the proper order, neural crest cell invasion must be controlled so that migrating cells form and remain in segregated streams.

Kulesa and Rebecca McLennan, PhD, a research scientist in the laboratory, plan to utilize state-of-the-art techniques, including time-lapse microscopy, to examine gene expression patterns and cell behaviors. Knowledge of the factors that control neural crest cell migration will help us better understand craniofacial birth defects and be relevant to highly aggressive neural crest-derived cancers, such as melanoma.