Photo of Saxena, Ankur

Ankur Saxena, PhD

Assistant Professor

Biological Sciences


Building & Room:

4120 MBRB


900 S. Ashland Ave.

Office Phone:

(312) 413-8137

Related Sites:


How do neurons form in vertebrate embryos and why are so few created in adults? My lab investigates these important questions in their natural, in vivo context by combining high-resolution live imaging with genetic, molecular, and/or physical perturbation. We aim to understand multicellular dynamics during stem cell migration and differentiation into neurons and, to do so, have developed an experimental system that embraces rapid advances in imaging technologies while maintaining long-term developmental and regenerative fidelity. The primary model organism used in the lab is the zebrafish.

Currently, much of our work is focused on olfactory sensory neurons, which are particularly unique in their regenerative capacity across species. In humans, for example, a completely new set of olfactory neurons is present almost every month. We have previously shown that one of the two main types of olfactory sensory neurons in zebrafish is derived from highly migratory neural crest stem cells. By revealing the origins of these neurons and the molecular and cellular processes driving the remarkable transformation from stem cell to sensory neuron in vivo in both embryos and adults, we intend to gain new insights into general mechanisms of neurogenesis and the potential for neuroregeneration.

Selected Publications

(Complete list of publications on Google Scholar)

  1. Saxena A & Bronner ME.  A novel HoxB cluster protein expressed in the hindbrain and pharyngeal arches.  Genesis (Cover Image), 52(10), 858-63 (2014).
  2. Wang K, Milkie D, Saxena A, Engerer P, Misgeld T, Bronner ME, Mumm J, Betzig E.  Rapid adaptive optical recovery of optimal resolution over large multicellular volumes.  Nature Methods, 11(6), 625-8 (2014).
  3. Rogers CD, Saxena A, Bronner ME.  Sip1 mediates an E-cadherin-to-N-cadherin switch during cranial neural crest EMT.  Journal of Cell Biology (Cover Image; Highlighted), 203(5), 835-47 (2013).
  4. Saxena A, Peng BN, Bronner ME.  Sox10-dependent neural crest origin of olfactory microvillous neurons in zebrafish.  eLife (Editor’s Choice; Highlighted), 2:e00336 (2013).  ScienceDaily:  Insight:
  5. Trinh LA, Hochgreb T, Graham M, Wu D, Ruf-Zamojski F, Jayasena CS, Saxena A, Hawk R, Gonzalez-Serricchio A, Dixson A, Chow E, Gonzales C, Leung HY, Solomon I, Bronner-Fraser M, Megason SG, Fraser SE.  A versatile gene trap to visualize and interrogate the function of the vertebrate proteome.  Genes & Development (Cover Image), 25(21), 2306-20 (2011).
  6. Saxena A & Tabin CJ.  The miRNA-processing enzyme Dicer is necessary for cardiac outflow tract alignment and chamber septation.  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 107(1), 87-91 (2010).
  7. Saxena A, Fish JE, White MD, Yu S, Smyth JWP, Shaw RM, DiMaio JM, Srivastava D.  Stromal cell-derived factor-1 alpha is cardioprotective during myocardial infarction.  Circulation117(17), 2224-31 (2008).
  8. Bock-Marquette I*Saxena A*, White MD, DiMaio JM, Srivastava D.  Thymosin b4 activates integrin-linked kinase and promotes cardiac cell migration, survival and cardiac repair.  Nature (Article; Highlighted), 432(7016), 466-72 (2004).  (Co-1stauthors contributed equally.)


PhD, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, 2005.

BS, University of Texas at Austin, 1999.