Mayssa Mokalled, PhD

Assistant Professor, WashU Developmental Biology

Spinal cord (SC) repair after injury or disease

The Mokalled lab aims to elucidate evolutionarily conserved mechanisms of spinal cord regeneration, and to develop zebrafish-inspired interventions to promote spinal cord repair in mammals. Adult zebrafish possess an elevated regenerative capacity and lack the anti-regenerative complications displayed after mammalian spinal cord injury. Our goal is to leverage the strengths of the zebrafish model system to uncover the molecular identities of pro-regenerative cells in zebrafish, and to reconstruct analogous identities in humans.

In zebrafish, specialized bridging glia connect the transected spinal cord and support axon regrowth across the lesion. We are pursuing a number of transcriptomic and genetic approaches to elucidate glial bridging mechanisms in zebrafish. We are using comparative transcriptomic to uncover the bases for differential regenerative capacity between the highly regenerative zebrafish and poorly regenerative mouse models, and glial cell reprogramming to engineer human cells into zebrafish-like bridging cells to promote spinal cord repair in mammals.

Adult zebrafish are also capable of adult neurogenesis in response to injury. Ongoing studies in the lab aim to identify new regulators of neurogenesis and functional repair, and to trace the contributions of ependymal progenitors to neurogenesis in the adult spinal cord.

More about the Mokalled lab