Laboratory of Developmental Neuroscience
Jan Kucera, M.D., Ph.D.
Professor of Neurology
Chief of Neurology Consultation Service at VAMC
I head the Laboratory of Developmental Neuroscience. Our principal interest is in factors that mediate development of the proprioceptive system. We have examined the role of neurotrophin-3 (NT-3) in the differentiation and survival of group Ia sensory neurons, which mediate muscle proprioception. We have observed that no Ia neurons form in genetically altered mice lacking NT-3. These mice are unable to walk, and have functional deficits similar to those seen in humans with large-caliber fiber peripheral neuropathies. We have also addressed the role of transcription factors Erg3 and ER81 in development of the muscle stretch reflex. Monosynaptic muscle afferent-motoneuron connections either do not form or are unstable in the spinal cord of mice lacking Erg3 or ER81. Clarifying the role of neurotrophic and transcription factors in the survival and differentiation of neurons is important for the development of treatment strategies for neurodegenerative disorders in which deficiency of growth factors may play a role.