The Caldwell Laboratory (a.k.a, The Worm Shack) at The University of Alabama is studying malfunction in basic cellular mechanisms associated with diseases of the nervous system. Our laboratory utilizes the microscopic nematode roundworm, C. elegans, as a model system for discovering gene function, as well as therapeutic target development for these disorders. Research in The Shack is dynamic and continually evolving, but current efforts are on focused toward investigations of human movement disorders, including dystonia and Parkinson’s Disease, as well as Alzheimer’s disease, cystic fibrosis, ALS, and epilepsy.
C. elegans affords many advantages in such research as it is amenable to genetic, genomic, proteomic, and drug screening strategies and is an animal with a completely defined cell lineage, completed genome sequence, and lifespan of approximately 2 weeks. As opposed to the human brain, where it is estimated we have over 100 billion nerve cells, this microscopic worm contains precisely 302 neurons for which a defined neuronal connectivity map has been determined. In this regard, C. elegans is ideal for investigation of diseases associated with neuronal dysfunction and aging. The utility of this model system for medical research has been well established and recognized by the fact that this animal was a subject of the 2002, 2006 and 2008 Nobel Prizes.
While microscopic worms are certainly our thing, we also conduct a variety of studies using mammalian cell cultures and biochemical assays. Numerous collaborative projects in the realm of human genetics, mammalian target validation, molecular toxicology, and drug discovery are ongoing.
Current and recent work in the Caldwell Lab is funded by grants from the NSF, NIH, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Michael J. Fox Foundation, in addition to numerous other biomedical foundations and patient support groups, as well as the pharmaceutical industry. Recent findings include work published in Science, Cell, Nature Genetics, Nature Neuroscience, PNAS, J. Neuroscience, Human Molecular Genetics, Disease Models and Mechanisms, Nature Chemical Biology, and Cell Metabolism, among other peer-reviewed venues.
Former students training in The Caldwell Lab have obtained jobs and admission to professional programs at M.I.T., UCSF, Duke, Vanderbilt, Princeton, Stanford, Rockefeller, U. Penn., UC-Berkeley, UT-Southwestern, Emory, Oxford, Cambridge, Georgetown, and other fine institutions.
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