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The Gill Center for Biomolecular Science

Gill Seminars

Previous Speakers

Upcoming Speakers

January 30, 2017
Michal Schwartz, Ph.D.

Weizmann Institute of Science

Seminar will be held in Psychology, Room 101 at 4:00 p.m.

Title: Immune system shapes the brain: Harnessing by targeting Immune checkpoint for fighting Alzheimer's disease

Abstract: Although the brain was considered an autonomous tissue that performs optimally without any assistance from the immune system, it is now widely accepted, in great part through our work, that circulating monocytes and CD4+ T cells are needed to support brain repair and functional plasticity. Over the years, we demonstrated that brain’s supporting leukocytes can gain access to the brain’s territory through a unique interface located between the blood cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and the blood vessels, remote from the brain parenchyma. This barrier, the choroid plexus epithelium (CP), forms the blood-CSF-barrier, and serves as a gate controlling leukocyte entry to the CNS.  In analyzing how the activity of this interface determines the fate of the brain, we discovered using immunogenomics and immunohistochemistry, that in aging and in mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) this interface is suppressed with respect to its ability to allow communication between the brain and the circulating leukocytes. We found that transiently reducing systemic immune suppression activated the CP to express trafficking molecules, and in turn led to recruitment of immune regulatory cells to sites of brain pathology.   Lifting of suppression could be achieved by blocking inhibitory immune checkpoints, regulatory pathways that maintain systemic immune homeostasis and tolerance. Among such inhibitory immune checkpoints is the PD-1/PD-L1 receptor/ligand pair. We found that treatment with anti-PD-1 antibodies was effective in reversing cognitive loss, in removal of plaques, and in restoring brain homeostasis in several mouse models of AD. Such an approach is not meant to be directed against any single disease-escalating factor in AD, but rather, empowers the immune system to drive the process of repair, which .comprehensive addresses numerous factors that go awry in this disease.  

Co-sponsored with Program in Neuroscience

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February 27, 2017
Matthew Rasband, Ph.D.

Baylor College of Medicine

Seminar will be held in Psychology, Room 101 at 4:00 p.m.

Title: The functional organization of axons in health and disease

Abstract: Neurons are among the most polarized of cells.  Early in their development, neurons elaborate dendrites and, typically, a single axon, but in order for these regions to be functional, they must form highly complex domains that include high density clusters of ion channels.  Dr. Rasband will focus on the clustering of ion channels that occurs at axon initial segments (AIS) and nodes of Ranvier.  The initial segment is the site of action potential initiation, while nodes are responsible for the signal regeneration that allows rapid and energy efficient propagation over long distances.  Dr. Rasband will discuss both intrinsic and extrinsic (glia-dependent) mechanisms that control ion channel clustering.  Intriguingly, nearly every identified neuronal protein component of nodes of Ranvier is also found at the AIS, suggesting that these domains perform similar tasks and that common mechanisms may underlie their formation and maintenance. On the other hand, despite the molecular similarities between these two neuronal domains, there is one major difference between the AIS and node of Ranvier: clustering of proteins at nodes requires the influence of myelinating glia, but recruitment of these same proteins to the AIS does not.  Disease and injury disrupts these clusters, and any therapeutic strategy aimed at neural repair will require their reassembly.

Co-sponsored with Program in Neuroscience 

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April 24, 2017
Andrew Holmes, Ph.D.

National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Alcohol and Abuse and Alcoholism

Seminar will be held in Psychology, Room 101 at 4:00 p.m.

Title: Deciphering neural circuits to develop new anti-anxiety medications

Abstract: Trauma-related and anxiety disorders are the most prevalent group of psychiatric diseases, and there is growing medical need to improve on the effectiveness and the side effect profile of existing anti-anxiety drugs.  Many years of preclinical pharmacological research has generated a huge amount of data and has led to numerous clinical trials – but this has led to very few translational success stories.  There is therefore an urgent need to find a more productive dialog between preclinical models and clinical studies that is powered by an ever-developing appreciation of the shared neural circuits and genetic architecture that moderate anxiety-related behaviors across species.  Innovative approaches will be discussed, using recent case studies, which have the potential to deliver a new generation of risk biomarkers and therapeutic strategies for trauma and anxiety disorders.  For more info: http://niaaa.nih.gov/research/niaaa-intramural-program/niaaa-laboratories/laboratory-behavioral-and-genomic-neuroscience

Co-sponsored with Program in Neuroscience

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May 5, 2017
Chinfei Chen, M.D., Ph.D.

FM Kirby Neurobiology Center
Boston Children's Hospital
Harvard Medical School

Seminar will be held in Mutlidisciplinary Science Building II (MSBII), Room 102 at 12:00 p.m.

Title: Pending

Abstract: Pending

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