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Vidal-Gadea Lab
Vidal-Gadea Lab
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Welcome to our lab!



Our lab uses the nematode C. elegans and the crayfish P. virginalis to study the molecular, neuronal, and evolutionary underpinnings of behavior. We apply these insights to the study of neural and muscular pathologies. Our approach is integrative and combines forward and reverse genetics, immunohistochemistry, calcium imaging, optogenetics, and in-depth behavioral analysis. 

We currently focus on three main topics: 1) magnetic field detection and orientation, 2) the etiology and prevention of degeneration during Duchenne muscular dystrophy, and 3) the adaptation of modern molecular techniques to crustacean neuroscience. Additionally, teams of undergraduate researchers in our lab also conduct independent research in other topics including: a) investigating the effects of Martian gravity and magnetic field on terrestrial organisms; b) determining the usefulness of nematodes in the study of Angelman syndrome; and studying the role of mechanoreceptors in c) proprioception, and d) locomotion.   

Magnetic field detection and orientation:

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Many organisms detect and use the magnetic field of the earth to navigate their environment. While much progress has been made in this exciting field, no magneto transduction mechanism has been identified in any animal. After demonstrating that nematodes can detect and orient to magnetic fields, our lab identified the first set of neurons capable of detecting this invisible force field. Our lab presently works to: 1) characterize the magnetic orientation behavior of C. elegans; 2) identify the molecular transduction mechanism allowing worms to detect magnetic fields; 3) determine how the magnetosensory neurons encode magnetic information; 4) evaluate the effects of non-terrestrial magnetic fields on animal viability.  

Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy:


​Duchenne muscular dystrophy is a lethal disease affecting 1 in 3500 males caused by deleterious mutations in DYS1, a giant gene encoding the dystrophin protein. Progress in this field is hindered by lack of animal models faithfully recreating the disease beyond the genetic lesion (e.g. muscular degeneration, loss of ambulation). We devised the first assay able to fully recapitulate the progression of the disease in animals. We then conducted a genetic screen and isolated mutants able to overcome the effects of the disease.  My students now work to identify these mutations hoping to bring relief to those suffering with this disease. We are also using this and similar assays to evaluate different types of exercise that might prove protective for dystrophic musculature.​

Adaptation of molecular techniques to crustaceans:

For over a century crustaceans have been successfully used to study behavior, development, and neuroscience. Their accessible nervous systems allow for multiple recordings to be obtained from living nervous systems under a plethora of experimental conditions. In collaboration with the Stein lab (at ISU), and the Lyko lab (Heidelberg, Germany) we are working to annotate the genome of the Marbled crayfish (P. virginalis), and to adapt mopdern molecular tools for their use in crustacean neuroscience.


Vidal-Gadea Lab                  

School of Biological Sciences
Illinois State University 
339 Science Laboratory Building
Campus Box 4120
Normal, Illinois 61790-4120
Office: (309) 438-5220
Lab: (309) 438-2643