David Clayton's work with the zebra finch songbird as a model organism for research is so well thought of that he was selected to write a white paper to the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) proposing an analysis of the whole genome sequence of the bird. The proposal was accepted, the zebra finch genome was sequenced, and today the bird is a Model Organism for Biomedical Research of the National Institutes of Health.
Clayton, a faculty member in the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology at Illinois, has a research portfolio that merges neuroscience, genomics, and ethology toward a greater understanding of the brain. Claytons work focuses on the zebra finch as a model organism because the animals unique song-learning abilities give insight into developmental sensory learning and because understanding gene expression in the bird provides clues to behavior in animals, including humans.
An important part of his work involves studying the speech pathology of those suffering from Fragile X syndrome, the most common known cause of autism and the most common cause of inherited mental impairment. In a collaboration with Beckman colleague Stephanie Ceman, the researchers were able to characterize the fragile X mental retardation protein (FMRP) in areas of the songbird brain, including one analogous to a region in the human brain that has been shown to be involved in speech.
Copyright 2010 Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois
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