Marie-Laure Baudet is group leader at Center for Integrative Biology (CIBIO) in Trento, where she works on the development of neuronal connections. She graduated in Biology at Bishop’s University in Canada and earned her PhD in Physiology at the University of Alberta. In 2007 she began her post-doc in the Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience at the University of Cambridge, UK. In 2012 Baudet moved to Italy, thanks to the Armenise Harvard Career Development Award.
Marie-Laure Baudet focuses on mechanisms of microRNA activity involved in forming neuronal connections during the development of the nervous system. Once created, these circuits are essential to all brain activities, from sensory information up to higher cognitive functions such as decisionmaking.
But how are these links established? As the neuron develops the cell extends small protrusions called axons that navigate in a complex environment to reach and connect with its target cells. These axons find their way thanks to molecules that, acting much like the pebbles used by Little Thumbling, guide them with extreme precision to their final destination.
Connection errors can have devastating consequences. A vast and complex array of regulatory mechanisms is required in order to avoid such errors. Studies carried out by Baudet and her collaborators have recently shown that microRNA molecules contribute to proper axon guidance. But their physiological functions in this process are still largely not understood.
Moreover, since the process of metastasis formation and that of axon guidance involve similar molecules, a better understanding of microRNAs in neurons can have therapeutic consequences in the prevention of tumors, as well as in the treatment and prevention of neurodegenerative diseases, the therapeutic regeneration and regrowth of nerve cells, and in the reconnection of the central nervous system after an injury.