Munoz Awarded Fellowship

The American Association of Anatomists has awarded Trainor Lab Postdoc William Munoz, PhD, a one-year, $20,000 fellowship grant to further his exploration of the timing of neural crest cell specification.

Neural crest cells are a vertebrate cell population that gives rise to a variety of other cell types and tissues. Defects that occur during neural crest cell formation, migration, or maturation can result in a variety of birth defects called neurocristopathies.

Previously, scientists thought that in mouse models the formation of neural crest cells occurred at about eight and a half days into development. Recently, Munoz has found that this formation can occur as much as two days earlier. Munoz hopes to identify the timing of neural crest cell development more precisely and learn more about the underlying mechanisms.

Specifically, Munoz will focus on the nuclear receptor called germ cell nuclear factor (Gcnf), which is essential for neural crest cell formation in mammals. He will investigate the gene and protein networks that are regulated by Gcnf. He hopes his research will provide new insight on this step of vertebrate development and the possible causes of congenital neurocristopathies.