Nicholas Maragakis treats patients with motor neuron diseases, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). This care is coordinated with the Johns Hopkins Center for ALS Specialty Care, a multidisciplinary clinic with expertise in treating patients with ALS and providing support to their caregivers. He serves as medical director of the ALS Clinical Trials Unit, an extension of the multidisciplinary clinic that seeks to facilitate opportunities for patients with ALS to participate in clinical trials that could advance the treatment of this disease.
Dr. Maragakis is interested in the basic science of understanding neurodegenerative diseases, as well as the translational potential of therapeutic compounds developed in the laboratory. His fundamental research interest is in using stem cells — more specifically, stem cell-derived motor neurons and glia — for understanding the development and propagation of ALS.
His laboratory has been involved in creating and characterizing lines of stem cells from patients with ALS using induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) methodologies. The laboratory has a large library of iPSCs from patients with familial ALS and from patients with sporadic ALS. The utilization of this library of iPSCs has facilitated the development of a spinal cord-specific iPSC-astrocyte/motor neuron co-culture system, which has been leveraged for the development of assays that can be used for both the basic understanding of ALS astrocyte and motor neuron biology as well as, eventually, drug screening for ALS therapeutics.
His laboratory has taken its long-standing interests in astrocyte biology, as it relates to ALS, to develop a program that investigates astrocyte-specific mechanisms as contributors to the progression (both temporally and anatomically) of disease in ALS. In this vein, there is an interest in astrocytic glutamate transporters and, more recently, astrocyte hemichannels and gap junctions.