Development of genome editing strategies in domestic chicks
Wednesday 10 January 2024

Domestic chicks have been widely used to study molecular mechanisms of brain development with classical embryological experiments. Using a combination of the newly-developed genome editing techniques (CRISPR/Cas9) and classical embryology approaches we aim at developing new genetic model of neurodevelopmental disorders in domestic chicks.

Social predisposition in chick exposed to valproic acid during embryonic development: behavioural, neuroanatomical and molecular characterisation
Wednesday 10 January 2024

Biological predispositions to attend to visual cues guide social behaviour from the first moments of life and have been documented in human neonates, infant monkeys and domestic chicks. Using embryonic exposure to valproic acid (VPA), an anticonvulsant associated to increased risk of developing autism spectrum disorders (ASD), widely used to induce ASD core symptoms in animal models, we modelled ASD behavioural deficits in domestic chicks. To shed light on the molecular and cellular mechanisms of social predispositions and their lack of expression in VPA-treated chicks we investigate:

  • changes in specific neurotransmitter systems, in particular the serotonergic and dopaminergic neurons, at cellular and molecular level;
  • epigenetic changes in specific gene networks associated with social cognition;
  • global, behaviourally-induced, epigenetic and gene expression changes associated to social predispositions and their lack of expression in VPA-treated chicks.