This project will study the mechanisms and roles of plasticity in the mammalian spinal cord, through a multi-disciplinary approach that will probe the molecular, cellular, circuit, and behavioral levels of learning. Ultimately, we hope to generate novel strategies to advance the treatment of spinal cord injury and stroke. During this fiscal year, we have made significant progress towards setting up a new laboratory and establishing the environment, resources, and experimental framework for this project. We have recruited a talented and enthusiastic group of researchers, including a post-doctoral research associate, an animal biologist/technician, and a post-baccalaureate IRTA researcher. We have obtained all major lab equipment, such as microscopes for surgery, dissection, and confocal imaging, high-speed/high-resolution cameras for mouse behavioral analysis, cell culture equipment, and tools for molecular biology. Construction plans for behavior rooms are finalized. Protocols for animal and safety work have been completed and we have initiated a mouse colony with approximately 20 distinct mouse lines each specialized for different types of genetic control over spinal cord neurons. This includes two novel mouse lines that are being developed and characterized in our lab. The lab has also used the past fiscal year to create and adapt assays that will form the foundation for future studies, including viral injections to deliver genes into the adult mouse spinal cord, primary spinal cord neuron culture, transcriptional analysis of spinal cord neurons, and behavioral tasks that focus on motor function and motor learning.

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