Joshua Burda, Department of Neurobiology, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, USA

Astrocyte regulation of intraspinal plasticity and spontaneous recovery after SCI

Funded in: 2016, 2017, 2018

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Problem: A lack of understanding of the cellular and molecular processes mediating spontaneous recovery

Target: Investigation of the astrocyte-specific contribution to recovery after SCI

Goal: Discovery of new therapeutic target

Each year, nearly half a million people around the globe experience a spinal cord injury (SCI), which results in disability that prevents them from being able to perform essential daily functions such as walking, reaching, grasping, and urinating. The majority of these cases are incomplete injuries (I-SCI), which are associated with varying degrees of spontaneous functional recovery. A lack of understanding of the cellular and molecular processes that mediate spontaneous recovery has prohibited the development of effective therapies for SCI patients with enduring neurological dysfunction.

The research objective of this project is to investigate how astrocytes, a specialized support cell type in the brain and spinal cord, contribute to neuroregenerative processes after I-SCI. A comprehensive experimental approach will bring together cutting-edge genomics, neuroanatomy, biochemistry, neurophysiology, astrocyte-specific functional manipulations, and a mouse model of I-SCI to obtain critical insight into the mechanisms that regulate functional spontaneous recovery after SCI. Findings from these translationally-relevant studies will aid in the discovery of new therapeutic targets for treating neurological disability as a result of SCI, brain injury, or stroke, as well as neurodegenerative diseases such as multiple sclerosis.

Dr. Burda and his colleagues designed an 'Astrocyte Reactivity RNASeq Browser' thereby sharing their expression data for free. The tool also allows to search for genes and displays their expression level under the different experimental conditions: