Immune dysfunction has been described in most neurological disorders. Preclinical strategies targeting these disorders have primarily concentrated on directly targeting synaptic function; however, most of these approaches have failed. Our lab is interested in understanding the complex interactions between the immune system and nervous system with the intent to uncover novel therapeutic targets to combat diseases such as autism spectrum disorder.
Projects in the Lab:
- T cells support proper brain function and mice lacking T cells have behavioral deficits, such as decreased learning and memory and social withdrawal. Further, alterations in T cell function have been described in many neurological disorders. Interestingly, T cells are not present in the parenchyma of a healthy brain; yet they patrol the meninges and likely influence neuronal activity via the release of soluble cytokines. We are investigating how cytokines, and other immune-cell derived molecules, can regulate neural circuits and how an imbalance in these molecules might affect the brain in autism spectrum and other related disorders.
- Cord blood contains a rich source of immune-modulating components including, stem cells, immune cells, and soluble factors. Recent work has demonstrated the efficacy of using cord-blood derived components to promote myelination and increase function in neurological conditions such as multiple sclerosis, autism spectrum disorder, and aging. We are investigating how cord-blood derived cells and products can be used to promote healthy brain function and alleviate behavioral dysfunction in these devastating neurological conditions.