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Introduction of the Zhang Laboratory

We are part of the Department of Systems Biology, the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics, and the Motor Neuron Center at Columbia University Medical Center.

We are fascinated by the complexity of the mammalian nervous system and its underlying molecular mechanisms. While mammals have a similar number of genes compared to phenotypically simpler organisms (such as worms), one apparent feature of mammalian genes is their more complicated gene structures, providing an opportunity for sophisticated regulation at the RNA level.

The vision of my lab is to infer RNA regulatory networks in the nervous system as a way to understand the mammalian complexity manifested in evolutionary-developmental (evo-devo) processes and in several neuronal disorders. Specifically, we are interested in obtaining fundamental understanding of how neuronal cell types are specified during the normal development process, how this process can be reversed in certain pathologic contexts (such as brain tumors), and why neurons die abnormally in neurodegenerative diseases. My lab has a mixed dry and wet setup (a.k.a. "humid" lab). We use different model systems and a combination of high-throughput data-driven and hypothesis-driven approaches.