Skip to main content
Dr David Petrik

Dr David Petrik

Senior Lecturer

School of Biosciences

+44 (0)29 2087 9391
Sir Martin Evans Building, Museum Avenue, Cardiff, CF10 3AX


My research focuses on adult neural stem cells in the brain and adult neurogenesis. Neural stem cells in the adult mammalian brain have the capacity to generate new neurons, which are important for brain functions such as learning and memory, mood control and body metabolism. I am interested in studying factors that regulate the stem cells and in brain functions that are in turn regulated by the stem cells and their cell progeny. I am particularly interested in determining how aberrant diet can influence the stem cells and how stem cells can regulate the food intake behaviour and development of obesity.


I am a senior lecturer of the Biomedicine Division within the School of Biosciences at Cardiff University. My original training lies in ion channel biophysics and physiology, however, over the last decade I have been studying the neural stem cells in the brain.

Between 2000-2003, I conducted my diploma Master’s thesis at the Institute of Experimental Medicine of the Academy of Sciences of Czech Republic in Prague, where I investigated the electrophysiological and morphological properties of reactive astrocytes in a model of mechanical brain injury. To deepen my understanding of ion channel biophysics, I enrolled as a PhD student at The University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio, USA. In the laboratory of Dr. Robert Brenner, I studied the effects of alternative splicing, reverse phosphorylation and accessory subunits on molecular kinetics of calcium activated (BK) channels and their role in action potential waveform and firing in the granule cell neurons in the hippocampus.

During my post-doctoral career, I have focused on adult neural stem cells and adult neurogenesis, the process of generating new neurons in the adult brain. In 2008, I have joined the laboratory of Professor Amelia Eisch at the University of Texas Southwestern in Dallas. I have led a research in small molecule screening to characterize one of the most used drugs to upregulate adult neurogenesis in the hippocampus called Isoxazole 9. Also, I have studied the effects of epigenetic (such as Brg1) and genetic (Mef2, Cdk5) factors on the biology of adult neural stem cells. In 2013, I relocated back to Europe as a Marie Curie Fellow of the European Research Council to the laboratory of Professor Magdalena Götz. At the Institute of Stem Cell Research of the Helmholtz Centrum Munich and at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, I completed the research arch of my career by showing that adult neural stem cells in the brain are mechano-sensitive thanks to the epithelial sodium channel. Also, I have collaborated on projects that involve so called direct cell reprogramming and new single-cell sequencing methods. In September 2019, I joined the Cardiff University as a senior lecturer. In my laboratory, I focus on the adult neural stem cells in hypothalamus and the role of metabolism and diet on their stemness and biology.












We utilize a wide range of techniques to study genetic, epigenetic, pharmacological and environmental factors that regulate neural stem cells in adult mammalian brain. Using immunohistochemistry, cell cultures and time-lapse imaging, we determine the proliferative and differentiation potential of stem cells and lineages of individual cell clones. We study mechanistic aspects of stem cell regulation by calcium and sodium imaging and by the patch-clamp electrophysiology in combination with the single-cell sequencing.  Our goal is to search for new factors that regulate stem cell biology and to understand how stem cells and their cell progeny influence brain and body functions.

Regulation of stem cells by diet

New neurons are generated in adult brain from neural stem cells in discrete regions called adult neurogenic niches by a process of adult neurogenesis. There are two well-established and one understudied neurogenic niche in the mammalian brain. The neurogenic niche of the hippocampus gives rise to new neurons that are critical for the declarative memory and mood control. In the walls of the lateral ventricle, there is a neurogenic niche that generates immature neurons, which migrate to the olfactory bulb to participate in olfactory function. The less explored niche is in the hypothalamus, in the walls of the third brain ventricle. Here, specialized cells called tanycytes serve in a dual role as the putative stem cells as well as the metabolic regulators to control the feeding behavior, body weight and aging. Our aim is to understand how diet influences the ability of tanycytes as the neural stem cells and to identify new diet-responsive genetic factors in tanycytes. The strategic goal is to discover specific genes that can be manipulated in tanycytes and their cell progeny to combat development of diet-induced obesity.