Chan Laboratory



In the lab, we use genetic, cellular, and behavioral techniques to dissect animal physiology and behavior.


The lab is interested in understanding the behavioral and cellular adaptations an organism makes in response to environmental challenges. Our environmental surroundings are filled with factors such as toxins, pathogens, temperature changes, disease states, and other challenges that can alter animal physiology and behavior. An animal must respond and adapt to these environmental challenges to survive. Our lab uses the model organism C. elegans, a roundworm. In particular, we are interested cellular signaling pathways that coordinate the response system in the animal. The interactions of our tissues (neuron, muscle, skin, intestine in worms) in response to environmental factors will be explored. Because C. elegans can be studied genetically, cellularly, and behaviorally with fast and manageable methodology, the experiments using worms will help us understand how other animals learn and make the appropriate adaptations to the environment. 
(The image above (top) is from Wormbase showing a worm cartoon with the nervous system in red. The bottom image is from the Hutter Lab, showing green fluorescence labeling of all the neurons in the worm.)

In the picture above, neurons in the head region of the worm are red, and they send signals to the motor neurons in green, despite not being in direct contact. This is an example of endocrine signaling in the worm and may represent an locomotor adaptation of the worm to environmental or sensory stimuli. Other worm physiology consists of the Mouth and Digestive System, Reproductive System, Nervous System (but the don't really have a "brain"), Muscular System, and Cuticle (skin). The interactions between these tissues lead to complex behaviors.


                                                                        “Helix elegance” by Feng Xue, Wormbook