The Cai lab focuses on developing and combing novel technologies to understand how complex neural circuits are formed in the brain. Similar to an electric circuit, neural circuits comprise individual parts, the neurons of many distinct subtypes that are highly interconnected to each other to permit information processing and propagation. Mapping the neural circuit diagram, the connectome, is a central goal of neuroscience, which, however, has been hindered by many technical limitations.
Over the years, we have developed several genetic labeling, imaging, molecular profiling and computational tools to overcome critical hurdles in mapping the brain connectome. For instance, we created multispectral labeling tools to barcode neurons with unique colors so that tens of thousands of neurons’ morphology, connectivity and lineage composition can be unambiguously traced in the same brain. We also developed multiplex molecular profiling platforms to identify unique cell type markers from single cell mRNA sequencing results and to validate them in situ. Utilizing these tools, we start to depict the molecular mechanisms of how distinct subtypes of neurons are generated during development. Combining with advanced sample clearing/expansion procedures and image acquisition/processing tools, we are mapping out the connection diagrams between different neuronal subtypes, which are the physical foundation underlying animal behaviors.
Members of the Cai lab are from multidisciplinary backgrounds that include biomedical and computational science and engineering. We welcome innovative and motivated individuals to join us in an environment that emphasizes on creation, collaboration and independence!