Department or Program


Primary Wellesley Thesis Advisor

Barbara Beltz

Additional Advisor(s)

Margaret Keane

Additional Advisor

Sara Wasserman

Additional Advisor

Christopher Arumainayagam


Adult neurogenesis, the production of new neurons in the adult brain, is an evolutionarily conserved mechanism that occurs in vertebrates and invertebrates. In the Beltz lab, we study the phenomenon in the crayfish Procambarus clarkii because they provide a relatively simple and accessible system that produces the new neurons. Recent work in our lab has demonstrated that the neural stem cells housed in the neurogenic niche are not self-renewing and that an outside source is replenishing the stem cell population. In vitro and in vivo experiments revealed that cells derived from the immune system are capable of becoming neural precursor cells and developing into functional neurons that are integrated in circuitries related to higher order processing and olfaction. In hopes of better understanding the relationship between the immune system and adult neurogenesis, we asked whether cells released from the anterior proliferation center (APC) or hematopoietic tissues (HPT) in vitro could be biased with agents that would increase their attraction to the niche in vitro. Released cells were cultured with different types of brain homogenates, plasma, serotonin and astakine, and then labeled with the fluorescent dye CellTracker Green (CTG). Labeled cells were introduced into short-term co-cultures that contained brains and their associated niches. After 6 hours, brains were processed immunocytochemically and assessed for the presence of CTG labeled cells on the edge of or embedded in the niche. APC cells biased with accessory lobe (AL) homogenate not only adopted a more differentiated morphology but also had an enhanced attraction to the niche in vitro. Future studies will test whether the AL-biased immune cells are capable of progressing through the neural precursor lineage to produce differentiated neurons in vivo. This work contributes to our understanding of the relationship between blood and brain, and of nervous system diseases associated with adult neurogenesis.

Available for download on Wednesday, April 20, 2022