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Research in the Elizabeth Tucker Lab aims to find treatments that decrease neuroinflammation and improve recovery, as well as to improve morbidity and mortality in patients with infectious neurological diseases. We are currently working with Drs. Sujatha Kannan and Sanjay Jain to study neuroinflammation related to central nervous system tuberculosis – using an animal model to examine the role of neuroinflammation in this disease and how it can differ in developing brains and adult brains. Our team also is working with Dr. Jain to study noninvasive imaging techniques for use in monitoring disease progression and evaluating treatment responses.
Dr. Haughey directs a disease-oriented research program that address questions in basic neurobiology, and clinical neurology. The primary research interests of the laboratory are:
1. To identify biomarkers markers for neurodegenerative diseases including HIV-Associated Neurocognitive Disorders, Multiple Sclerosis, and Alzheimer’s disease. In these studies, blood and cerebral spinal fluid samples obtained from ongoing clinical studies are analyzed for metabolic profiles through a variety of biochemical, mass spectrometry and bioinformatic techniques. These biomarkers can then be used in the diagnosis of disease, as prognostic indicators to predict disease trajectory, or as surrogate markers to track the effectiveness of disease modifying interventions.
2. To better understand how the lipid components of neuronal, and glial membranes interact with proteins to regulate signal transduction associated with differentiation, motility, inflammatory signaling, survival, and neuronal excitab...ility.
3. To understand how extracellular vesicles (exosomes) released from brain resident cells regulate neuronal excitability, neural network activity, and peripheral immune responses to central nervous system damage and infections.
4. To develop small molecule therapeutics that regulate lipid metabolism as a neuroprotective and restorative strategy for neurodegenerative conditions. view less
The Human Brain Physiology and Stimulation Laboratory studies the mechanisms of motor learning and develops interventions to modulate motor function in humans. The goal is to understand how the central nervous system controls and learns to perform motor actions in healthy individuals and in patients with neurological diseases such as stroke. Using this knowledge, we aim to develop strategies to enhance motor function in neurological patients.
To accomplish these interests, we use different forms of non-invasive brain stimulation techniques, such as transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), as well as functional MRI and behavioral tasks.
Our research is focused on understanding the basic mechanisms of programmed cell death in disease pathogenesis. Billions of cells die per day in the human body. Like cell division and differentiation, cell death is also critical for normal development and maintenance of healthy tissues. Apoptosis and other forms of cell death are required for trimming excess, expired and damaged cells. Therefore, many genetically programmed cell suicide pathways have evolved to promote long-term survival of species from yeast to humans. Defective cell death programs cause disease states. Insufficient cell death underlies human cancer and autoimmune disease, while excessive cell death underlies human neurological disorders and aging. Of particular interest to our group are the mechanisms by which Bcl-2 family proteins and other factors regulate programmed cell death, particularly in the nervous system, in cancer and in virus infections. Interestingly, cell death regulators also regulate many other cel...lular processes prior to a death stimulus, including neuronal activity, mitochondrial dynamics and energetics. We study these unknown mechanisms.
We have reported that many insults can trigger cells to activate a cellular death pathway (Nature, 361:739-742, 1993), that several viruses encode proteins to block attempted cell suicide (Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 94: 690-694, 1997), that cellular anti-death genes can alter the pathogenesis of virus infections (Nature Med. 5:832-835, 1999) and of genetic diseases (PNAS. 97:13312-7, 2000) reflective of many human disorders. We have shown that anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 family proteins can be converted into killer molecules (Science 278:1966-8, 1997), that Bcl-2 family proteins interact with regulators of caspases and regulators of cell cycle check point activation (Molecular Cell 6:31-40, 2000). In addition, Bcl-2 family proteins have normal physiological roles in regulating mitochondrial fission/fusion and mitochondrial energetics to facilitate neuronal activity in healthy brains. view more
Joseph Mankowski Lab
The Joseph Mankowski Lab studies the immunopathogenesis of HIV infection using the SIV/macaque model. Our researchers use a multidisciplinary approach to dissect the mechanism underlying HIV-induced nervous system and cardiac diseases. Additionally, we study the role that host genetics play in HIV-associated cognitive disorders.
Molecular and Comparative Pathobiology
The research in the Kecken Zhang Laboratory is focused on theoretical and computational neuroscience. We use mathematical analysis and computer simulations to study the nervous system at multiple levels, from realistic biophysical models to simplified neuronal networks. Several of our current research projects involve close collaborations with experimental neuroscience laboratories.
Recent advances in molecular and cellular biology, the emergence of more sophisticated animal models of human disease and the development of sensitive, high-resolution imaging systems enable the study of pathophysiology noninvasively in unprecedented detail. The overall goal of our work is to develop new techniques and agents to study human disease through imaging. We concentrate on two areas, i.e., cancer and central nervous system processes. Our work extends from basic chemical and radiochemical synthesis to clinical translation.
Michael Wolfgang Laboratory
The Wolfgang Laboratory is interested in understanding the metabolic properties of neurons and glia at a mechanistic level in situ. Some of the most interesting, enigmatic and understudied cells in metabolic biochemistry are those of the nervous system. Defects in these pathways can lead to devastating neurological disease. Conversely, altering the metabolic properties of the nervous system can have surprisingly beneficial effects on the progression of some diseases. However, the mechanisms of these interactions are largely unknown.
We use biochemical and molecular genetic techniques to study the molecular mechanisms that the nervous system uses to sense and respond to metabolic cues. We seek to understand the neurometabolic regulation of behavior and physiology in obesity, diabetes and neurological disease.
Current areas of study include deconstructing neurometabolic pathways to understand the biochemistry of the nervous system and how these metabolic pathways impact animal beh...avior and physiology, metabolic heterogeneity and the evolution of metabolic adaptation. view more
The Mohamed Farah Lab studies axonal regeneration in the peripheral nervous system. We've found that genetic deletion and pharmacological inhibition of beta-amyloid cleaving enzyme (BACE1) markedly accelerate axonal regeneration in the injured peripheral nerves of mice. We postulate that accelerated nerve regeneration is due to blockade of BACE1 cleavage of two different BACE1 substrates. The two candidate substrates are the amyloid precursor protein (APP) in axons and tumor necrosis factor receptor 1 (TNFR1) on macrophages, which infiltrate injured nerves and clear the inhibitory myelin debris. In the coming years, we will systematically explore genetic manipulations of these two substrates in regard to accelerated axonal regeneration and rapid myelin debris removal seen in BACE1 KO mice. We also study axonal sprouting and regeneration in motor neuron disease models.
Pankaj Jay Pasricha Lab
Researchers in the Pankaj Jay Pasricha Lab are interested in the molecular mechanisms of visceral pain and restoration of enteric neural function with novel strategies, including neural stem cell transplants. Recent research has focused on the enteric nervous system and gut-brain axis, and the complexity of pain in chronic pancreatitis. Another recent study indicates that patients with underlying small intestinal bacterial overgrowth have significant delays in small bowel transit time as compared to those without, while another explored the safety and efficacy of carbon dioxide cryotherapy for treatment of neoplastic Barrett's esophagus.