We are delighted to welcome Dr Katie Long to the Centre who joins us from the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, in Dresden, Germany.
Katie joins us with a prestigious MRC Career Development Award, investigating the development of the human neocortex. Katie is particularly interested in the correct development of the neocortex and the consequences of defects in the size, shape or organisation of the neocortex. Such defects can lead to cognitive impairment and are characteristic of some neurodevelopmental disorders. Her lab’s work focusses on the formation of folds in the neocortex and how the processes involved are regulated and especially the role of the extracellular matrix (ECM).
The lab uses an interdisciplinary approach to look at the cellular and mechanical mechanisms by which the ECM drives the development of the human neocortex, including the formation of the folds present on the surface of the neocortex, and how dysregulation of these functions can lead to neurodevelopmental disorders.
Katie has many years’ experience investigating the ECM. During her PhD, she studied the role of integrin-beta 1 signalling within the chick midbrain neuroepithelium. She discovered the activation of integrin-beta 1 signalling promoted self-renewal of the neural progenitors, whilst promoting the differentiation of neighbouring progenitors. She found this process requires Wnt7a and TGF-beta signalling and the ECM component decorin ( Long et al. , Nature Communications 2016).
During her postdoctoral work at the Max Planck Institute, Katie developed a novel ex vivo system to study human neocortical development and folding (Long et al., Neuron 2018). Using this method, she uncovered a novel role for the ECM components HAPLN1, lumican and collagen 1 in human neocortical development. In particular, she has found that these components are able to induce ex vivo folding in neocortical tissue, shedding light into this very crucial process of brain development that is so crucial for human neocortex development and function. This is a very significant contribution to our understanding of the development of the human neocortex and will serve as the basis of her future work as an independent group leader in our Centre.