Genetically Decoding Human Afferent and Efferent Autonomic Ganglia

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In Progress



Grant Year

ANF Development Grant

Grant Type

Erika Williams, MD, PhD


Massachusetts General Brigham


Project Summary

Dr. Williams’ research will begin with comparing single-cell sequencing data from human ganglia with existing maps for mice. She explained, “Much foundational work has been done, and is ongoing, to delineate various types of neurons, their anatomy, physiology, and molecular profile in the mouse, yielding critical insights about how the nervous system controls key functions like breathing, circulation, and digestion, among others. At a minimum, I want to know if humans have these same neurons too! The degree of similarity and difference is not only of basic scientific interest but would also provide a very concrete set of molecularly defined tools for future work.” 

She added, “With this project, we hope to fill the gap and to directly query at single-cell resolution the organization of the human autonomic nervous system, and how that organization changes in disease. I hope this will change how we think about autonomic disorders in our patients. In addition, a data set replete with molecularly defined targets I hope will facilitate novel therapy development for autonomic disorders.” 

Following completion of the research, Dr. Williams will present her findings at an AANEM Annual Meeting and hopes to eventually see her goals through in her own laboratory and clinical practice over the years to come.
“I am hopeful that with the short term work we will be able to identify tractable targets for new therapies in autonomic neurology and to generate new hypotheses and frameworks for future scientific endeavors in the field. I’d like to see these goals through in my own laboratory and clinical practice over the years to come.”
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