The vasculature maintains tissue microenvironments that are essential for the function and survival of cells throughout the nervous system. Accordingly, local nervous system blood flow is regulated to maintain tissue oxygenation and meet changing metabolic demands. Blood, in turn, is separated from brain, retinal, spinal cord, and peripheral nerve tissue, as well as from the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) by barriers that allow only some molecules to pass.
Column researchers study the physiology of nervous system vasculature and barriers in both health and disease. The latter includes conditions such as ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke, cerebral small vessel disease, dementia, migraine, neural trauma (e.g., traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, and peripheral nerve injury), infections (meningitis, encephalitis), and the emergence of intracranial hypertension and hydrocephalus.
Column researchers uncover genetic, molecular, cellular, and environmental determinants of nervous system vascular and barrier functions, including permeation of solutes and water, defense against infection, and transmigration of inflammatory cells. They develop strategies to penetrate barriers that separate blood from neural tissue and neural tissue from the nasal cavity, respectively, for the purpose of drug delivery. They invent new methods and identify mechanisms and biomarkers of nerve tissue injury as they strive to develop early interventions to salvage brain functions.
Column researchers cooperate across disciplines as they apply concepts and methods from genetics, molecular and cellular biology, electrophysiology, biochemistry and pharmacology, neuroimaging, computational modeling, epidemiology, behavioral neuroscience, and neuropsychology. Their tools include in silico models of vascular functions and molecular transport in nerve tissue, ex vivo cell biology, in vitro barrier models, in vivo animal studies, mechanistic studies in humans, and clinical trials.
Lab rotations enable the student to define a cross-disciplinary PhD project involving at least two of the involved research groups.