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Role of neuropeptides in development of neural crest and cerebellum
Nervous system tumors are the most common cause of death from pediatric malignancies and rank second only to accidents as a cause of death in this age group. These cancers arise in the developing nervous system or neural crest during fetal growth or infancy. Neuropeptides are both neurotransmitters and important modulators of neurodevelopment. Vasoactive intestinal peptide is both a differentiation factor and a neuroprotective agent. Somatostatin is a potent modulator of growth factor release and also modulates the signal transduction pathway for multiple growth factors. We are studying the role of vasoactive intestinal peptide and somatostatin in development of the neural crest and cerebellum using transgenic and knock out mice. Understanding of the role of neuropeptides in neural crest development should allow us to develop new diagnostic and therapeutic options for children with neuroblastoma and medulloblastoma.