Scientists in the Neurobiology Program engage in research to define molecular processes critical to development, degeneration and regeneration of cells in the nervous system, with the aim of developing novel therapies for diseases and injuries of the human nervous system.
The program integrates research and training in mechanisms of brain injury and therapeutic development with clinical studies in pediatric neurology and neonatology.
Our scientists are exploring several key aspects of signal transduction, the method by which protein signals outside a cell cause changes in gene expression inside the cell nucleus. These signals are critical to normal development. Studying them allows us to uncover and understand the disturbance and disruptions in genes during development that may cause birth defects, cancer and other childhood diseases.
2011 in Review
Trainees present in the program’s research hour. Talks are supplemented by faculty and clinical fellow presentations.
The Chicago Neural Repair Club featured eight seminars on epilepsy, gene and stem cell therapies for neurodegenerative diseases, cortical development and approaches to spinal cord repair.
The Bohn laboratory is developing gene and stem cell therapies for Parkinson’s disease (PD), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and head trauma.
Maria Dizon is studying the development of oligodendrocytes, cells that form the white matter of the brain, and the impact of hypoxic injury in the preterm and newborn brain.
Leon Epstein investigates the impact of viral infections on the developing nervous system and is identifying biomarkers of neurological status in HIV infection.
The Koh laboratory conducts research on the role of the immune system in the progression of epilepsy, and is developing novel treatments to minimize the detrimental effects of seizures in children.
The Wainwright laboratory is studying the role of glial cells in traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic epilepsy, and improving therapies for acute brain injury in children.
Wainwright is developing a database of pediatric clinical data in Xenobase. The database is designed to support research projects of both clinical and basic scientists.
Charu Venkatesan, working in the Kessler laboratory, studies oligodendrocyte and astrocyte response to perinatal hypoxic ischemic injury, with the goal of developing novel therapies for preterm and term infants who have sustained brain injury.
An embedded silencing vector may be ideal for gene silencing. Over-expression of human SNCA (hSNCA), a protein that has been implicated in Parkinson’s disease (PD), leads to death of dopaminergic (DA) neurons. hSNCA gene silencing may reduce toxic forms of SNCA and ameliorate DA neuron degeneration. The Bohn laboratory designed two gene silencing vectors, both of which silenced hSNCA equally. The vector that was embedded in a microRNA backbone was significantly less toxic to cells.
Albumin may be involved in neurotrauma-related epilepsy. The use of albumin as a resuscitation fluid is considered safe for most critically ill patients. However, clinical data suggest albumin may increase mortality in patients with traumatic brain injury (TBI). The laboratory of Mark Wainwright showed that in primary astrocyte cultures, albumin plays a role in neurotrauma-related epileptogenesis.