Anjen Chenn is a physician-scientist at the University of Illinois, Chicago, in the Department of Pathology.
Chenn’s research lab works on mechanisms regulating the development of the cerebral cortex. They are interested in factors that regulate the production and differentiation of neurons in the brain. Their work has shown that in normal brain development, a signaling pathway regulated by the beta-catenin protein plays a critical role in regulating the self-renewal and proliferation of neural progenitor cells. In transgenic mice, overactivity of the beta-catenin signaling pathway causes brains to become abnormally large, characterized by increased cerebral cortical surface area, overproduction of neurons, and the generation of folds resembling the folds present in larger-brained mammals such as humans. Together with the findings from recent, large genetic studies and anatomic studies of brains from autistic children, their work is highly suggestive that beta catenin signaling may function critically in the development of autism.
Chenn’s clinical work is in laboratory medicine (clinical pathology), where he hopes to translate our growing understanding of the development of autism into a clinically relevant diagnostic test.