Dr Ernst's full CV
We study psychiatric disorders with a focus on neurodevelopmental disorders, using Next-Generation sequencing technology and stem cell biology.
There are two main themes in the lab:
1) Identification of genetic variation associated with neurodevelopmental disorders. This involves recruiting patients and their families, collecting blood, skin, and possibly other tissue samples, and using high throughput technologies to identify genetic variation. We work collaboratively with families that choose to share their stories with us.
Generally, we receive referrals from Children's hospitals in Canada where current genetic analyses at these facilities have failed to identify variants of interest. We take a comprehensive approach to each case. Once a genetic variant that might cause disease has been identified by our group, we convert patient skin cells to neurons using state-of-the-art stem cell biology techniques which allows us to study the function of the genetic variant in brain-like cells. Working closely with the Brain Bank at the Douglas hospital, we ask families to consider brain donation as well, depending on their own particular circumstances, which can significantly improve our understanding of the biology of neurodevelopmental disease.
2) Epigenetic studies of genomic regulation. Using human brain tissue, blood samples, or neural stem cells we study how modifications to the genome such as DNA methylation regulate gene expression patterns and cell function. Our main focus here is in understanding spatio-temporal patterns of epigenetic patterning during neural stem cell differentiation.