Laura Clarke, PhD

My long-term research goal is to contribute to our understanding of how glia regulate thedevelopment and function of the nervous system, and how these mechanisms go awry in disease. My interest in glia began during my PhD in David Attwell’s lab at University College London. I focused on investigating the properties of oligodendrocyte precursor cells (OPCs), and how signaling to these cells regulates their proliferation, differentiation and myelination. I studied the electrical properties of OPCs in different brain areas, whether their electrical properties are affected by their embryonic site of origin, and how GABAergic signaling to OPCs regulates their development and myelination. During my Ph.D, I gained experience in electrophysiology, immunohistochemistry and microscopy. For my postdoctoral training, I joined Ben Barres’ lab at Stanford to continue my research in neuron-glial interactions. I learned how to prepare primary glial and neuronal cultures, and RNA-sequencing.

My collaborative work contributed to publications furthering our understanding of how astrocytes eliminate synapses in the developing visual system, and how primary human astrocytes and human IPSC derived astrocytes control synapse formation and function. Furthermore, my independent research projects have included 1) generating the first aging astrocyte transcriptome database to investigate the aging-induced changes in astrocytes that contribute to cognitive decline, and 2) investigating the role astrocyte synapse elimination plays in hippocampal development and learning and memory. These studies have laid the groundwork for my future research investigating the mechanisms by which astrocytes regulate neural circuits and how these processes go awry in disease and aging.

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