Moens Lab

Moens Lab

Side view of 36-hour old zebrafish embryo

Investigating early development of the vertebrate brain

Our Research

Welcome to the Moens Lab. Our goal is to understand fundamental mechanisms underlying the development of the vertebrate brain. Our lab is located in the Basic Sciences Division of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, in the South Lake Union neighborhood of Seattle.

Understanding mechanisms of cancer initiation and spread requires first understanding how genes control cell growth and differentiation, motility and communication in a complex four-dimensional in vivo environment. All of these processes occur normally during development and can be exquisitely visualized in vivo in the transparent zebrafish embryo. The Moens lab uses the zebrafish to study the early development of the vertebrate brain at the time when neurons acquire their position-specific identities, migrate to the appropriate locations and generate axons that are guided to their synaptic targets. Current projects focus on the development of cranial motor neurons, which reside in the segmented hindbrain and innervate the muscles of the head and neck. A long-term goal is to understand how these neurons are integrated into functional motor circuits during development.