NICHD is launching a vision process to guide planning for the next ten years. They are running workshops and writing white papers. The first workshop was on “plasticity”. Although this could have been writ large, it was pretty focused on neural plasticity. The workshop was brilliantly organized I have to say. Six focus groups tackling a small set of questions in three areas: basic science, clinical science and translational science. Two focus groups worked in parallel in each area to insure that the problem was well vetted. Equally important, each focus group was composed of basic scientists and clinical scientists, including a large percentage of assistant professors. At the start there were some keynote talks to warm up the crowd.
Gordon Fishell of NYU said something really interesting. “The fundamental element that drives development of the brain is the cell and not the gene. So to understand brain disease, you need to understand the roll of the cells”
I really liked this and will use it hence forth, with attribution. Seems like you can extend this idea in many ways. Just switch out “brain disease” with your favorite word: development, axon guidance, cell migration, map formation, whatever.
What does it mean when applied to how the “intrinsic state” of a mature neuron is maintained. We have found that it is really, really, really hard to overexpress transcription factors in neurons, especially KLFs. We are starting to think that there is some very extreme negative feed back system to prevent altering the transcriptional state of our neurons. Until we understand this we probably won’t be able to use this entry point to enhance axon regeneration. But it seems like a subidea to Gord’s axiom.