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We intend to identify key regulators of neural stem cell (NSC) differentiation to advance protocols for NSC transplantation. Recent studies have begun to clarify molecular interactions involving genes that promote differentiation of NSCs towards specific phenotypes. MicroRNAs (miRNA) are a novel class of gene linked to the regulation of gene function. Studies have associated several of these miRNAs with cell differentiation and other developmental processes, suggesting that they might be master regulators of protein expression. We intend to find specific regulators of NSC differentiation which are regulated by unique miRNAs by a series of biochemical and bioinformatics approaches. Thus, we believe that by identifying genes related to this form of regulation it will be possible to elucidate NSC differentiation mechanisms, which will provide novel approaches to regulate NSC fates. The ability to control the fate of NSCs may lead to optimized therapeutic NSC transplantation protocols for spinal cord injury patients.
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