Photo of Stanford student and Stanford Bio-X Undergraduate Summer Research Program Participant George Nakahara.
2020 Undergraduate Summer Research Program Participant and 2021 Cohort Lead

Home Department: Human Biology
Mentor: Thomas Südhof (Molecular & Cellular Physiology)

2020 Research Project: “Investigating How Astrocytic Neurexin-1 Instructs Synapse Development”

Genetic variation in the gene that encodes for Neurexin-1, a protein well known for its role in synapse development, has been implicated in cases of autism spectrum disorder, schizophrenia, and Tourette syndrome. However, our understanding of Neurexin-1 function and regulation in diverse cell types in the brain is limited. George’s research will investigate how astrocytes, a major non-neuronal cell type in the brain, utilize Neurexin-1 to regulate synapse development, thus elucidating the role of this protein in developmental disorders.

2021 Research Project: “Investigating the Role of Astrocytic Neurexin-1 in the Formation and Maintenance of the Blood-Brain Barrier”

The blood-brain barrier (BBB) is an important border that keeps pathogens and other harmful materials from penetrating into the central nervous system. Recent work from the Südhof lab has revealed that a protein called neurexin-1 is trafficked to the BBB by glial cells known as astrocytes. Neurexin-1 has previously been known to interact with a variety of postsynaptic ligands and organize diverse synaptic properties. However, its interactions with the BBB remain uncharacterized. George’s research will explore how knocking out astrocytic neurexin-1 affects BBB structure and morphology. This investigation will explore a potentially novel role of neurexin-1 and provide greater insight into the formation and maintenance of the BBB.