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Dr. Ruohola-Baker’s work focuses on how genes implicated in neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative disorders play an important role in fundamental biological processes. Utilizing the fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster), her laboratory is investigating defects in genes that cause developmental disabilities in humans. In particular, she is seeking to understand how the neuronal and muscle defects observed in muscular dystrophy result from defects in the dystroglycan-dystrophin signaling pathway, how the Notch-signaling pathway acts as a tumor suppressor, and how the microRNA pathway regulates stem-cell division.
Ruohola-Baker’s group is taking multidisciplinary approaches to these questions with an emphasis on understanding molecular interactions underlying establishment of cell polarity and the control of cell fate during development. Current studies include (1) identifying new genes that interact with dystroglycan-dystrophin complex, (2) connecting the Notch-pathway and the cell cycle regulators that control the exit from the normal mitotic cell cycle to endocycle, (3) understanding the regulation of stem cell division with the emphasis of microRNA role in dacapo/p21 control, and (4) understanding disorders in protein conformation that show effects on endoplasmic reticulum function and are the basis of many sporadic and inherited diseases.
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