Axon guidance and fasciculation
One of the mechanisms by which developing axons are guided to their targets is the diffusion of a chemoattractant factor from the target through the extracellular space. This creates a gradient of increasing concentration that the growth cone at the tip of a developing axon can sense and follow.
Axons often elongate alongside other axons, forming bundles or fascicles, a process called fasciculation. Upon reaching their target region, growth cones steer away from each other to innervate their own specific targets, a phenomenon called defasciculation. Cell adhesion molecules (CAMs) on the surface of axons have been implicated in mediating axon fasciculation.
A better understanding of axon guidance, bundling, and debundling is relevant for developing strategies for stimulating regrowth and reinnervation after nerve damage.
Together with George Hentschel and Jan Verwer and Ben Sommeijer at CWI, we developed efficient numerical algorithms for modeling axon guidance.