Frédéric Charron, Ph.D.
Frédéric Charron is a research assistant professor in the Department of Medicine at the Université de Montréal. He is the director of the Molecular Biology of Neural Development Laboratory at the Université de Montréal and affiliated with McGill University.
Institut de recherches cliniques de Montréal
SUMMARY OF RESEARCH ACTIVITIES
The brain is a complex network composed of billions of neurons, essential for its function. Inappropriate wiring of these neurons during embryonic development has serious consequences for sensory, motor and cognitive functions of the nervous system. The fact that damaged axons are unable to regenerate and reintegrate neuronal circuits following neurodegenerative diseases, strokes or head and spinal cord injuries, deeply affects the quality of life of those afflicted and sometimes even leads to death.
During development of the nervous system, axon guidance molecules direct neuronal axons toward their targets through attractive and repulsive cues. We have recently shown that Sonic Hedgehog (Shh), a protein known for its role in cell fate specification of neural tube cells, also acts as a chemoattractive molecule for axons of commissural spinal cord neurons. This was surprising since molecules that control cell fate determination and axon guidance, were previously thought to be distinct. How can a single molecule, like Shh, control the two processes? While the genes involved in cell fate determination controlled by Shh are well known, the genes involved in Shh-controlled axon guidance still remain unknown.
Consequently, one of the objectives of our laboratory research is to identify and characterize the components of the Shh signalling pathway in axon guidance. Along with these studies we use innovative genetic and real-time imaging approaches to characterize, at high spatio-temporal resolution, the role of axon guidance molecules, like Shh, in neural circuit formation.
In addition to helping us better understand the immense complexity underlying the formation of nervous system circuits, our research will enable us to find new strategies that will allow proper guidance and rewiring into circuits of axons damaged by neurodegenerative diseases or brain and spinal cord injuries.
Cancer and brain tumours, medulloblastomas, brain and spinal cord injuries
Charron F and Tessier-Lavigne M. The Hedgehog, TGF-β/BMP and Wnt Families of Morphogens in Axon Guidance in Axon Growth and Guidance. Edited by Dominique Bagnard, Landes Bioscience, 2007