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Seth Blackshaw, Ph.D.

Seth Blackshaw, Ph.D.

Headshot of Seth Blackshaw
  • Professor of Neuroscience


Neurodevelopmental Disorders, Neurogenetics, Obesity more

Research Interests

Regulation of hypothalamic cell fate specification and function; Functional analysis of candidate regulators of cell specification and survival in retina; High throughput screening; Molecular basis of neuronal and glial cell fate specification and survival more


Dr. Seth Blackshaw is a professor of neuroscience, neurology and ophthalmology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Additionally, he serves as an investigator in both the High Throughput Biology Center and the Institute for Cell Engineering at Johns Hopkins.

His work examines the molecular basis of neuronal and glial cell fate specification and survival.  His research focuses on characterizing the network of genes that control specification of different cell types within the retina and hypothalamus, two structures that arise from the embryonic forebrain.  The ultimate goal is to use insights gained from learning how individual cell types are specified to understand how these cells contribute to the regulation of behavior, and how they can be replaced in neurodegenerative disease.

Dr. Blackshaw received a B.A. in biology and an M.S. in biochemistry from the University of Chicago in 1991. He completed his Ph.D. in neurosciences at Johns Hopkins in 1997 and subsequently conducted postdoctoral work in genetics at the Harvard University Medical School. He joined the Hopkins faculty in 2004.

Dr. Blackshaw has authored or co-authored more than 110 peer-reviewed publications and holds several patents and copyrights. His work has garnered numerous grants and awards, including the W. M. Keck Foundation Distinguished Young Scholar in Medical Research Award, the Klingenstein Fellowship, the Basil O’Connor Starter Scholar Award and the Ruth and Milton Steinbach Fund Award for Research in Macular Degeneration. He is a member of the Society for Developmental Biology and the Society for Neuroscience, and serves on the editorial boards of Biomolecules and Frontiers of Systems Biology. more


  • Professor of Neuroscience
  • Joint Appointment in Ophthalmology

Departments / Divisions

Centers & Institutes



  • Ph.D.; Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine (Maryland) (1997)

Additional Training

  • Harvard University Medical School, Boston, MA, 2004, Genetics; Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, 1999, Neuroscience

Research & Publications

Research Summary

The vertebrate central nervous system (CNS) is an amazingly complex structure composed of distinct subtypes of neurons and glia.  To identify the molecular mechanisms that regulate cell specification in the CNS, we use the mouse retina and hypothalamus, both of which arise from the ventral embryonic forebrain.  The relatively simple anatomy of the retina provides an excellent system to identify molecular mechanisms that regulate neuronal cell fate.  The hypothalamus, which is a central regulator of behaviors ranging from sleep to feeding to reproduction, offers an opportunity to bring the power of developmental genetics to help unravel the neural circuitry controlling a huge range of experimentally tractable and medically important behaviors.

In recent years, we have worked to map out the transcriptional regulatory networks controlling the developmental competence of retinal progenitor cells, photoreceptor specification and survival, as well how retinal glia are specified and help promote photoreceptor survival.  In the hypothalamus, we have identified transcription factors that are essential for specification of neural circuitry controlling circadian rhythms and sleep.  We also discovered that tanycytes of the hypothalamic median eminence are a diet-responsive neural progenitor cell population.  Future work will investigate the function of novel candidate regulators of retinal and hypothalamic cell identity, the role of previously uncharacterized hypothalamic cell subtypes in regulating motivated behaviors, and the contribution of tanycyte-derived neurogenesis to the regulation of feeding and body weight.


Lab Website: Seth Blackshaw Lab

Selected Publications

View all on PubMed

Bedont JL, Legates TA, Slat EA, Byerly MS, Wang H, Hu J, Rupp AC, Qian J, Wong GW, Herzog ED, Hattar S, Blackshaw S. “Lhx1 controls terminal differentiation and circadian function of the suprachiasmatic nucleus.” Cell Rep. 2014 May 8;7(3):609-22. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2014.03.060. Epub 2014 Apr 24.

Pak T, Yoo S, Miranda-Angulo AM, Wang H, Blackshaw S. “Rax-CreERT2 knock-in mice: a tool for selective and conditional gene deletion in progenitor cells and radial glia of the retina and hypothalamus.” PLoS One. 2014 Apr 3;9(4):e90381. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0090381.

Liu S, Lamaze A, Liu Q, Tabuchi M, Yang Y, Fowler M, Bharadwaj R, Zhang J, Bedont J, Blackshaw S, Lloyd TE, Montell C, Sehgal A, Koh K, Wu MN. “WIDE AWAKE mediates the circadian timing of sleep onset.” Neuron. 2014 Apr 2;82(1):151-66. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2014.01.040. Epub 2014 Mar 13.

Byerly MS, Swanson RD, Wong GW, Blackshaw S. “Stage-specific inhibition of TrkB activity leads to long-lasting and sexually dimorphic effects on body weight and hypothalamic gene expression.” PLoS One. 2013 Nov 29;8(11):e80781. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0080781. eCollection 2013.

Lee DA, Salvatierra J, Velarde E, Wong J, Ford EC, Blackshaw S. “Functional interrogation of adult hypothalamic neurogenesis with focal radiological inhibition.” J Vis Exp. 2013 Nov 14;(81):e50716. doi: 10.3791/50716.

Contact for Research Inquiries

Email me Phone: 443-287-5609

Academic Affiliations & Courses

Graduate Program Affiliation

Activities & Honors


  • Basil O’Connor Starter Scholar Award, March of Dimes, 2006
  • Ruth and Milton Steinbach Fund Award for Research in Macular Degeneration, 2007
  • Young Investigator Award, National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression , 2007
  • Distinguished Young Scholar in Medical Research Award, W. M. Keck Foundation , 2006
  • Award in the Neurosciences, Klingenstein Foundation , 2006
  • Research Grant, Whitehall Foundation , 2005
  • Research Fellowship, Sloan Foundation , 2005
  • Fellow of the Life Sciences Research Foundation, Howard Hughes Medical Institute , 1999
  • Predoctoral Fellow, Howard Hughes Medical Institute , 1991
  • , Phi Beta Kappa, 1991
  • National Merit Scholar Award, 1987
  • Summer Program Award, Telluride Association , 1986


  • Society for Developmental Biology
  • Society for Neuroscience

Professional Activities

  • Editorial Board, Biomolecules, 2011
  • Editorial Board, Frontiers of Systems Biology, 2011
  • Guest Editor, PNAS, 2011
  • Guest Editor, PLoS Genetics, 2011
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