ProfessorDepartment of Neurological Sciences
I teach undergraduate, graduate Neuroscience, and medical students. In the first semester of the undergraduate Human Anatomy & Physiology (ANPS 19) course, I give all of the lectures on Central Nervous System structure and function. I also present lectures, teach in the Neuroanatomy laboratories, and serve as a small group discussion facilitator in the first year medical student VIC Neural Science course. I also participate in the Developmental Neurobiology and Neurochemistry courses for students in the Neuroscience Graduate Program.
My laboratory utilizes a wide variety of in vitro and in vivo cellular and molecular biological approaches to investigate the role of extracellular matrix proteolysis/inhibition in the normal and diseased nervous system, with particular emphasis on gliomagenesis. Our ability to cure glioma is greatly hindered by the fact that at the time of diagnosis tumor cells have invaded to distant sites, making surgical resection palliative rather than curative. Another treatment challenge is recurrence due to the persistence of chemotherapy and radiation resistant glioma stem cells. We propose that restoration of acetate bioavailability may provide a safe and efficacious means to reduce glioma cell growth. N-acetylaspartate (NAA) is one of the most concentrated metabolic sources of acetate in the human brain, but the enzyme that cleaves NAA to generate acetate, aspartoacylase (ASPA), is down-regulated in glioma. We have recently identified an FDA approved food additive that serves as an effective acetate source. Unlike free acetate, the compound is hydrophobic and freely crosses the blood-brain barrier. We have shown that it reduces glioma stem cell growth in vitro and in vivo orthotopic grafts. This compound has been chronically administered to infants with a leukodystrophy with no significant side effects. We have recently obtained a patent to develop this compound as a chemotherapeutic adjuvant and hope to begin a phase I clinical trial in the near future.