Benjamin Deneen Lab


About the Deneen Lab


Astrocytes and oligodendrocytes comprise CNS glia and are the most abundant cell types in the adult brain, executing a vast array of physiological roles essential to brain function, including myelination, synapse formation, neurotransmission, and formation of the blood-brain barrier. Accordingly, glial cells directly contribute to a wide spectrum of neurological disorders, ranging from neurodevelopmental and degenerative, to injury and malignancy. Despite their relative abundance, our understanding of glial contributions to normal and pathological brain function remains nascent, making glial biology a key “gap area” in the neurosciences.

Our laboratory seeks to unlock the enigmatic biology surrounding glial cell development and function in the brain. Beginning with developmental gliogenesis, we identified the key transcriptional mechanisms controlling the initiation of gliogenesis in the embryonic CNS. Moving towards function, our recent endeavors focused on decoding the cellular and functional diversity of astrocytes in the adult brain. In both cases, we made fundamental observations about the nature of glial cells and directly applied these paradigms to relevant neurological diseases: brain tumors and white matter injury. Our view of neurological disease as a recapitulation of glial development has allowed us to make critical new observations into disease pathogenesis. Through this we have built an interdisciplinary research program that draws on paradigms from development, disease, physiology and genomics to better understand the nature of glial cells in the brain.

Funding Support

Research in our lab has been made possible by generous support from the following:

  • Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas
  • National Multiple Sclerosis Society
  • American Cancer Society
  • Sontag Foundation
  • V Foundation for Cancer Research
  • Musella Foundation For Brain Tumor Research and Information



Benjamin Deneen, Ph.D.
Principal Investigator

Kavitha Rajendran, M.S.
Lab Manager