Led by principal investigator Michael Fox, Ph.D., the Fox Laboratory is interested in understanding the cellular and molecular mechanisms that drive two aspects of synapse formation—synaptic targeting and synaptic differentiation.
Researchers in the Fox Laboratory focus on the visual system in their efforts to uncover mechanisms that drive the initial targeting of synapses. The scientists are interested in understanding how synapses are formed between retinal ganglion cells (RGCs), the output neurons of the retina, and target neurons within the brain. Despite monumental advances in this field, it remains unclear how different classes of RGCs —of which there are more than 22— target functionally distinct nuclei within the brain. One brain region where class-specific targeting of RGC axons is most evident is the LGN —a thalamic relay nucleus that contains three structurally and functionally distinct subnuclei. Since different classes of RGCs target these subnuclei, the researchers hypothesized that regionalized guidance cues must exist to direct class-specific axonal targeting. Fox and his team have now identified candidate molecules that may act as targeting cues for class-specific retinal targeting and are now testing their necessity in retinogeniculate circuit formation.
Once synaptic partners have correctly targeted each other, both sides of the synapse must exchange developmentally relevant signals that transform this immature connection into a functioning synapse (a process called synaptic differentiation). Fox is specifically interested in identifying such trans-synaptic organizing cues in the mammalian brain. Fox is particularly interested in the role of extracellular matrix molecules and growth factors in this process. Previous studies from the Fox Laboratory identified roles for these classes of molecules in coordinating synaptic differentiation at the neuromuscular junction—a large peripheral synapse between motoneurons and muscle fibers. Based upon the bio-activities of these extracellular cues at the neuromuscular junction, the researchers are now asking whether similar cues are necessary and sufficient to induce the formation of brain synapses.
Article ItemGraduate student recognized for relentless curiosity and service , article Date: Jul 28, 2022
Article ItemFralin Biomedical Research Institute Summer Undergraduate Research Fellows present neurobiology and advanced imaging findings , article
The Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC hosted 20 undergraduate students this summer for a 10-week experience in two research programs that explore neurobiology and cutting-edge imaging technology to visualize living systems.Date: Aug 24, 2021
Article ItemVirginia Tech graduate student receives three awards for research and community outreach , article
Rachana Deven Somaiya recently received the Outstanding Scholars in Neuroscience Award from the National Institutes of Health, the Virginia Tech Aspire! Award for student learning, and the 2021-22 Gaskins Graduate Scholarship.Date: Jul 27, 2021
Article ItemTBMH student receives competitive NIH award to study molecule’s role in healthy brain development , article
Raymundo Hernandez, a graduate student in Virginia Tech’s Translational Biology, Medicine, and Health Program, studies how a specific molecule in the brain influences important aspects of healthy neurodevelopment. He was awarded a six-year $466,699 National Institutes of Health grant that will fund his remaining doctoral and postdoctoral research.Date: Jul 19, 2021
Article ItemStudent outreach program shines light on path to STEM careers for community college students , article
Fourteen Virginia Western Community College Fralin Futures STEM-H Scholarship students joined the discussion during a virtual question-and-answer session about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) careers hosted by the Virginia Tech Carilion Student Outreach Program.Date: May 02, 2021
Article ItemMedical student’s research offers insight into neural changes caused by parasitic infection , article
Michael Shlossman, a fourth-year student at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, researched Toxoplasma and its effect on alterations in four areas of the brain. His research focused on dopamine, a neurotransmitter made in the body and used to send messages between nerve cells.Date: Mar 18, 2021
Article ItemFaculty academies recognize new inductees for outstanding leadership, service , article
Academies honor the exemplary contributions of faculty members of all classifications in formal service roles or in areas of leadership.Date: Mar 01, 2021
Article ItemFralin scientists uncover mechanisms that wire the brain’s cerebral cortex , article
A research team led by Michael Fox, a professor at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC, has identified the type of brain cell that produces collagen 19, a protein that is crucial for the formation of inhibitory circuits in the brain.Date: Dec 21, 2020
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