Our research is focused in understanding how natural behavior emerges from the interaction between an organism's history (evolution), its genes, its nervous system, and its environment. Understanding of the basic principles governing these interactions will allow us to gain insight into how animals work (including humans).
We use the nematode C. elegans as a model system because of its unmatched experimental amenability and because little is still understood about its natural behavior. C. elegans has roughly the same number of genes as we do (20,000), about 60-80% of these genes are homologous to ours. This means that if there is a human process or disease that has a genetic component (that is, where genes can either directly or indirectly affect the process), there is a good chance that we can use C. elegans to study how genes contribute to such phenomena.
Currently we are working several projects based on natural behaviors worms share with many other organisms, and on human pathologies for which the use of nematodes can be a useful genetic model:
1) Animal detection and use the magnetic field or the earth.
2) Long term effects on development and physiology of exposure to the magnetic field of Mars.
3) Molecular mechanisms of muscle degeneration and protection during Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
4) Molecular mechanisms of developmental and motor delay in Angelman's Syndrome.
5) Burrowing through semi-solid substrates.
6) Adaptation of molecular and genetic techniques to crustacean systems.
Understanding the principles governing the production of successful behavior will generate insights that will be valuable in a wide variety of ways: from restoring motor function following injury or disease, to designing intelligent machines that can respond to unexpected environmental challenges.
In addition to the projects highlighted above, we are also interested in other related questions. If you are interested in joining our lab to work in one of these, or additional projects please contact us at: VidalGadeaLab@gmail.com