|Associate Professor, Brain Research Institute, Neurobiology|
|Member, Neuroscience GPB Home Area|
Samantha Butler is an Associate Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and a member of the UCLA Broad Stem Cell Research Center since 2013. She received a Ph.D. in Molecular Biology from Princeton University in 1996. As a graduate student with Yash Hiromi at Princeton University, Dr. Butler studied the genetic mechanisms that establish neural identity in the Drosophila eye during development. Dr. Butler then trained as a postdoctoral fellow with Dr. Jane Dodd at Columbia University where she focused on understanding the molecular identity of the factors that guide axons into their stereotyped trajectories in the developing spinal cord. Dr. Butler showed that molecules previously identified as morphogens, specifically the Bone Morphogenetic Protein (BMP) family of growth factors, can act as axon guidance signals.
In her own laboratory, Dr. Butler has focused on determining how neurons translate morphogens, such as the BMPs, over time to mediate strikingly different processes in the generation of neural circuits. During the course of these studies, she identified a critical mechanism by which the rate of axon outgrowth is controlled during development. The Butler laboratory is now examining how this process can be harnessed to accelerate axon growth in a regenerative context to stimulate the repair of neural circuits. The successful implementation of this technology could result in significantly improved recovery times for patients with damaged nervous systems.