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Dr. Xia's current research focuses on elucidating signal transduction mechanisms that regulate the fate of neural stem cells, i.e. what makes a neural stem cell proliferate and differentiate into neurons or glia in the mammalian brain. She is interested in neural stem cell regulation both during embryonic development and in adult brain (adult neurogenesis). Specifically, recent studies in the Xia lab suggest a novel role for the extracellular-signal-regulated kinase 5 (ERK5) MAP kinase in regulating these processes. The elucidation of molecular mechanisms that regulate neural progenitor cell proliferation and differentiation is important for an understanding of neural developmental and neurodegenerative diseases. Furthermore, stem cell-based cell replacement therapy offers enormous potential for the treatment of a variety of developmental, psychiatric, neurodegenerative and aging related diseases for which there are currently no cures. Moreover, environmental toxicants may cause neurotoxicity both in the development and in adult brain by perturbing these signaling mechanisms that regulate neurogenesis.
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