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Lab meeting with the Kerosuo Lab

Posted by , on 28 September 2023

Where is the lab?

The Kerosuo lab, The Neural Crest Development and Disease Unit, is part of the National Institutes of Health Intramural Research Program at the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, and it’s located in Bethesda, Maryland, USA

Laura Kerosuo: Neural Crest Development & Disease Unit | National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (nih.gov)

Research summary

The overall aim of the Kerosuo Lab is to provide a comprehensive picture of early neural crest development as part of the ectoderm patterning process and neurulation, and to use this knowledge to unravel the pathology behind neural crest derived diseases known as neurocristopathies. We focus on understanding the molecular mechanisms behind neural crest pluripotency-like stem cell maintenance, how fate choices are made, the extent of heterogeneity and plasticity in neural crest potential, and whether our findings on normal developmental processes apply to neural crest-derived birth defects and cancer. To answer our research questions, we use a combination of biochemical, cell, and molecular biology techniques and single cell and live imaging on chick and mouse embryos as well as on human ES-cell-derived neural crest cells. By combining the iPSC-technology to our research, the goal is to create a bridge between normal development and disease and create neural crest cells from patients with neurocristopathies to characterize the underlying cause by using a broad array of modern cell and molecular biology assays, which in part, are further validated by using the in vivo animal models.

Lab group photo

Lab roll call

Karla Barbosa Sabanero is a senior postdoc in the lab who works to understand the mechanisms that maintain the pluripotent state and the cell identity of the neural crest cells.

Jenaid Rees is a new postdoc in the lab uses chick embryology to explore the specific function of genes essential for neural crest specification and survival.

Ed Taroc is a new postdoc in the lab who studies how DiGeorge Syndrome affects the neural crest.

Ceren Pajanoja is a senior PhD student (in partnership with The University of Helsinki, Finland) who studies how the neural crest obtains its exceptionally high, pluripotency-like stem cell potential in the chick embryo, and how different cellular functions and fate determining gene regulatory networks mature and interact with each other during ectoderm patterning.

Jenny Hsin is a MD/PhD student (in partnership with The University of Cambridge, UK) attempting to understand the mechanisms by which neuroblastoma, a pediatric cancer, initiates during neural crest development.

Jamiya Kirkland is a second-year postbac fellow in the lab who works on understanding molecular mechanisms that drive neuroblastoma formation.

Sravya Pailla is a second year postbac fellow who studies pluripotency-related cellular functions in the human neural crest.

Shaun Abrams is an Independent Research Scholar in the lab, whose team studies how the ubiquitin pathway regulates neural crest development and how centrioles/cilia coordinate craniofacial development. 

Favourite technique, and why?

Laura: I like multiple techniques and will never get tired of admiring beautiful high-resolution images. The self-developed single cell Multiplex Spatial Transcriptomics technique (scMST) we use in the lab is impressive; every 3D image showing the pseudo-colored cells forming transcriptionally distinct subpopulations in the original spatial location in the tissue makes you humble and grateful for the fact that we can see into the embryo in such detail. I also enjoy how we can now model human neural crest development in organoid cultures and finally learn about the human details as we never get access to the young enough human embryos to study this. However, at the end of the day, my favorite technique probably is and will always be the gastrula stage gene perturbation technique in the chicken embryo to address developmental mechanisms at neurula stage; it is so satisfying to see an effect of your manipulation on one side of a real embryo, and directly compare the result to the contralateral control side. No matter what your hypothesis is, the embryo will tell us the correct answer.

Apart from your own research, what are you most excited about in developmental and stem cell biology?

Laura: I am fascinated by the recent progress in the assisted and self-assembling organoid field not to mention the incredible success of making entire embryos on a dish from cultured pluripotent cells!

How do you approach managing your group and all the different tasks required in your job?

Laura: I don’t think anybody can ever be perfect at this as it always feels like there is too much to do. I try my best by being quite well organized, I keep adding tasks to a long “to do” list, and I also categorize them by deadlines in my notes. Unfortunately, only twice during my PI-career have I had the rewarding feeling of finishing the list! In addition to labmeeting and spontaneous need-based meetings, I have standing weekly meetings with everyone in my lab, which provides a good structural basis so that I don’t lose track. As a mother of three children, I have been forced to a disciplined lifestyle for a long time already, which in this respect has served as an advantage.

What is the best thing about where you work? 

Laura: The multidisciplined, enthusiastic, and collegial research environment and the elaborate funding resources of the NIH. As a PI, it’s a privilege to be able to solely focus on the research without any teaching or grant writing responsibility.

Jenaid: The NIH has both amazing resources and incredible opportunities for collaboration.

Ed: The best thing about working for the NIH is that it is the NIH, one of the top research institutes in the country (maybe the world?), the amount of resources available to me feels amazing.

Jenny: The NIH is an amazing place for collaboration and resources – there are so many people and cores willing to answer your questions and offer their expertise.

Shaun: NIDCR is a very collegial and collaborative institute, the resources and core support are amazing, and the people who work here are very supportive in helping to troubleshoot experiments and brainstorm innovative new scientific questions/ideas. 

Karla: I enjoy that the NIH has a vibrant diverse community with a collaborative environment. 

What’s there to do outside of the lab?

Jenaid: There are beautiful hikes and vineyards a short drive away- it’s a lovely way to spend the weekend.

Ed:  I’m new to the DC/Maryland area but outside of lab in general I like to go running, hiking (I’m from upstate NY so literally a pass time for a lot of us), reading books, and also playing video games. I’m also really into exploring the area to find good places to eat and get good drinks, and you can usually find me roaming around the city with friends having a good time.

Jenny: The DMV area has so many things to do – DC has tons of free museums and an amazing food scene with plenty of restaurants and bars to check out. I also love being outdoors – the Rock Creek and Capital Crescent Trails are my favorites to go running on.

Shaun: There is so much to do in the DMV area. From great restaurants, hiking trails, museums, and concerts, I am never at a loss for things to do here when I’m not in lab.

Karla: This region has beautiful parks and green areas where you can enjoy hiking, rowing, and biking. Also, being so close to DC there are lots of events and fun for all.

Browse through other ‘Lab meeting’ posts featuring developmental and stem cell biology labs around the world.

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