As part of the Get to know your SANS Exco Webinar Series, please join us on Friday the 16th of July at 13:00 for a presentation by Dr Dorit Hockman entitled Exploring the gene regulatory dynamics of the maturing human brain.
Dr Dorit Hockman’s Bio
Dr Dorit Hockman did her undergraduate and MSc at the University of Cape Town (UCT). For her PhD at the University of Cambridge where she explored the evolution and development of vertebrate hypoxia-sensitive cells. In 2013, Dorit joined Trinity College (Oxford) to perform research into neural crest evolution. Dorit is now a lecturer at UCT, where she explores gene regulation during human brain maturation, supported by a FLAIR Fellowship.
The human brain is a complex assembly of diverse cell types with distinct morphologies and functions. Each cell type has a distinct molecular profile with tightly controlled gene regulatory networks likely in play directing cell differentiation and maintaining correct cell function. This molecular signature is set up over a protracted period of development, which begins in the embryo and continues into adolescence. Is it likely that over the course of a human lifetime, the molecular profile of the mature brain continues to change in response to environmental impacts and the process of ageing. However, due to the scarcity of healthy ante-mortem brain tissue samples, very little is known about how the normal gene expression and gene regulation profiles of the human brain change as it matures post-natally from the juvenile to adult state, or how this molecular signature is altered in response to environmental challenges, such as infectious disease. At the University of Cape Town there is a unique opportunity to begin addressing these shortfalls in our understanding of the molecular functioning of the brain, focusing on the local juvenile population. Through a collaboration between researchers and neurosurgeons affiliated with the University of Cape Town, a bio-bank of brain tissue samples has been collected. Tissue samples are obtained from consenting patients during clinically indicated neurosurgical procedures. Using this unique resource, the overall aim of our study is to characterise the molecular components of both juvenile and adult brain cells derived from non-infectious patients. This will involve the identification of expressed genes as well as the genomic elements that direct their expression (enhancers and promoters). By co-analysing juvenile and adult brain tissue, this study will reveal the dynamics of the gene regulatory networks that guide brain function over the course of human lifespan.