Daniel Summers, PhD
Neurons extend long projections throughout the body called axons that establish functional connections and form neural circuits. In humans, axons can reach over a meter in length and extreme isolation from the cell body imposes unique challenges on this compartment. Axonal degeneration is a prominent event in many neurodegenerative disorders and preventing axon decay is an important therapeutic goal. Furthermore, how human genetics and disease-linked mutations influence axon vulnerability is unknown.
The major objective of my research program is to understand the cell biology of an axon and identify new pathways responsible for axon fate in response to injury or disease. Projects in my lab include: 1) defining protein homeostasis networks that control the abundance axon survival factors, 2) determining how local protein translation impacts axon function, and 3) investigating the contribution of the immune system to axon health and survival.
We employ several experimental approaches that include biochemical, cellular, and in vivo model systems. We also use genomic engineering technologies to model how disease-linked mutations impact axon health and integrity. Our larger hope is that understanding axon biology will yield new and important strategies for protecting the nervous system and sustaining functional connectivity.